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THE MANTLE AND 
OTHER STORIES 


BY 

NICHOLAS GOGOL 

AUTHOR OF 

"DEAD SOULS," “TARAS BULBA/’ BTC. 


TRANSLATED BY CLAUDFIELD 


AND WITH AN INTRODUCTION ON GOGOL 

BT 

PROSPER MERIMEE 


New YORK: FREDERICK A. STOKES Co. 
London: T. WERNER LAURIE LIMITED 


preservation) 

COPY ADDED 
ORIGINAL TO BE 
RETAINED 


IAN 14 1994 


“ Gogol, Nikolai Vassilievitch. Born 
in the government of Pultowa, March 
31 (N.b) 1809, died at Moscow, March 
4 (N.S.), 1852. A Russian novelist 
and dramatist. He was educated in a 
public gymnasium at Pultowa, and 
subsequently in the lyceum.then newly 
established, at Niejinsk. In 1831 he 
was appointed teacher of history at the 
Patriotic Institution, a place which he 
exchanged in 1834 for the professor¬ 
ship of history in the University of St 
Petersburg. This he resigned at the end 
of a year and devoted himself entirely 
to literature. In 1836 Gogol left 
Russia. He lived most of the time in 
Rome. In 1837 he wrote * Dead 
Souls/ In 1840 he went to Russia for 
a short period in order to superintend 
the publication of the first volume of 
* Dead Souls/ and then returned to 
Italy. In 1846 he returned to Russia 
and fell into a state of fanatical mys¬ 
ticism. One of his last acts was to 
burn the manuscript of the concluding 
portion of 1 Dead Souls/ which he 
considered harmful. He also wrote 
‘The Mantle/ ‘Evenings at the 
Farm/ * St Petersburg Stories/ ‘ Taras 
Bulba/ a tale of the Cossacks, 4 The 
Revizor/ a comedy, etc/'—From The 
Century Cyclop cedi a of Names, 


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CONTENTS 

PAGE 

PREFACE . 7 

THE MANTLE. Ig 

THE NOSE.<5 7 

MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN.107 

A MAY NIGHT. . 

THE VIY. i87 


5 


870 











PREFACE 

As a novel-writer and a dramatist, Gogol appears 
to me to deserve a minute study, and if the 
knowledge of Russian were more widely spread, 
he could not fail to obtain in Europe a reputation 
equal to that of the best English humorists. 

A delicate and close observe^ quick to detect 
the absurd, bold in exposing, but inclined to 
push his fun too far, Gogol is in the first place 
a very lively satirist. He is merciless towards 
fools and rascals, but he has only one weapon at 
his disposal—irony. This is a weapon which is 
too severe to use against the merely absurd, and 
on the other hand it is not sharp enough for 
the punishment of crime; and it is against crime 
that Gogol too often uses it. His comic vein 
is always too near the farcical, and his mirth is 
hardly contagious. If sometimes he makes his 
reader laugh, he still leaves in his mind a feeling 
of bitterness and indignation; his satires do not 
avenge society, they only make it angry. 

As a painter of manners, Gogol excels in 
familiar scenes. He is akin to Teniers and 

7 


8 PREFACE 

Callot. We feel as though we had seen and lived 
with his characters, for he shows us their eccen¬ 
tricities, their nervous habits, their slightest 
gestures. One lisps, another mispronounces his 
words, and a third hisses because he has lost 
a front tooth. Unfortunately Gogol is so ab¬ 
sorbed in this minute study of details that he too 
often forgets to subordinate them to the main 
action of the story. To tell the truth, there is 
no ordered plan in his works, and—a strange 
trait in an author who sets up as a realist—he 
takes no care to preserve an atmosphere of 
probability. His most carefully painted scenes 
are clumsily connected—they begin and end 
abruptly; often the author’s great carelessness 
in construction destroys, as though wantonly, the 
illusion produced by the truth of his descrip¬ 
tions and the naturalness of his conversations. 

The immortal master of this school of desul¬ 
tory but ingenious and attractive story-tellers, 
among whom Gogol is entitled to a high place, 
is Rabelais, who cannot be too much admired 
and studied, but to imitate whom nowadays 
would, I think, be dangerous and difficult. In 
spite of the indefinable grace of his obsolete 
language, one can hardly read twenty pages of 
Rabelais in succession. One soon wearies of 
this eloquence, so original and so eloquent, but 
the drift of which escapes every reader except 
some (Edipuses like Le Duchat or Eloi Johan- 


PREFACE 9 

neau. Just as the observation of animalculee 
under the miscroscope fatigues the eye, so does 
the perusal of these brilliant pages tire the mind. 
Possibly not a word of them is superfluous, but 
possibly also they might be entirely eliminated 
from the work of which they form part, without 
sensibly detracting from its merit. The art of 
choosing among the innumerable details which 
nature offers us is, after all, much more difficult 
than that of observing them with attention and 
recording them with exactitude. 

The Russian language, which is, as far as I 
can judge, the richest of all the European family, 
seems admirably adapted to express the most 
delicate shades of thought. Possessed of a 
marvellous conciseness and clearness, it can with 
a single word call up several ideas, to express 
which in another tongue whole phrases would 
be necessary. French, assisted by Greek and 
Latin, calling to its aid all its northern and 
southern dialects—the language of Rabelais, in 
fact, is the only one which can convey any idea 
of this suppleness and this energy. One can 
imagine that such an admirable instrument may 
exercise a considerable influence on the mind of 
a writer who is capable of handling it. He 
naturally takes delight in the picturesqueness of 
its expressions, just as a draughtsman with skill 
and a good pencil will trace delicate contours. 
An excellent gift, no doubt, but there are 


10 PREFACE 

few things which have not their disadvantages. 
Elaborate execution is a considerable merit if it 
is reserved for the chief parts of a work; but if it 
is uniformly lavished on all the accessory parts 
also, the whole produces, I fear, a monotonous 
effect. 

I have said that satire is, in my opinion, the 
special characteristic of Gogol’s talent: he does 
not see men or things in a bright light. That 
does not mean that he is an unfaithful observer, 
but his descriptions betray a certain preference 
for the ugly and the sad elements in life. 
Doubtless these two disagreeable elements are 
only too easily found, and it is precisely for that 
reason that they should not be investigated with 
insatiable curiosity. We would form a terrible 
idea of Russia—of ‘ ‘ Holy Russia, ’ ’ as her chil¬ 
dren call her—if we only judged her by the pic¬ 
tures which Gogol draws. His characters are 
almost entirely confined to idiots, or scoundrels 
who deserve to be hung. It is a well-known 
defect of satirists to see everywhere the game 
which they are hunting, and they should not be 
taken too literally. Aristophanes vainly em¬ 
ployed his brilliant genius in blackening his con¬ 
temporaries; he cannot prevent us loving the 
Athens of Pericles. 

Gogol generally goes to the country districts 
for his characters, imitating in this respect 
Balzac', whose writings have undoubtedly influ- 


PREFACE 11 

enced him. The modern facility of communica¬ 
tion in Europe has brought about, among the 
higher classes of all countries and the inhabitants 
of the great cities, a conventional uniformity 
of manners and customs, e.g. the dress-coat 
and round hat. It is among the middle classes 
remote from great towns that we must look 
to-day for national characteristics and for ori¬ 
ginal characters. In the country, people still 
maintain primitive habits and prejudices—things 
which become rarer from day to day. The 
Russian country gentlemen, who only journey to 
St Petersburg once in a lifetime, and who, living 
on their estates all the year round, eat much, 
read little and hardly think at all—these are the 
types to which Gogol is partial, or rather which 
he pursues with his jests and sarcasms. Some 
critics, I am told, reproach him for displaying 
a kind of provincial patriotism. As a Little 
Russian, he is said to have a predilection for 
Little Russia over the rest of the Empire. For 
my own part, I find him impartial enough or even 
too general in his criticisms, and on the other 
hand too severe on anyone whom he places under 
the microscope of his observation. Pushkin was 
accused, quite wrongly in my opinion, of scepti¬ 
cism, immorality, and of belonging to the Satanic 
school; however he discovered in an old country 
manor his admirable Tatiana. One regrets that 
Gogol has not been equally fortunate. 


12 PREFACE 

I do not know the dates of Gogol’s different 
works, but I should be inclined to believe that his 
short stories were the first in order of publica¬ 
tion. They seem to me to witness to a certain 
vagueness in the author’s mind, as though he 
were making experiments in order to ascertain 
to what style of work his genius was best adapted. 
He has produced an historical romance inspired 
by the perusal of Sir Walter Scott, fantastic 
legends, psychological studies, marked by a mix¬ 
ture of sentimentality and grotesqueness. If my 
conjecture is coi’rect, he has been obliged to ask 
himself for some time whether he should take as 
his model Sterne, Walter Scott, Chamisso, or 
Hoffmann. Later on he has done better in fol¬ 
lowing the path which he has himself traced out. 
“Taras Bulba,” his historical romance, is an 
animated and, as far as I know, correct picture 
of the Zaporogues, that singular people whom 
Voltaire briefly mentions in his “ Life of Charles 
XII.” In the sixteenth and seventeenth cen¬ 
turies the Zaporogues played a great part in the 
annals of Russia and of Poland; they then formed 
a republic of soldiers, or rather of filibusters, 
established on the islands of the Don, nominal 
subjects sometimes of the Kings of Poland, some¬ 
times of the Grand Dukes of Moscow, sometimes 
even of the Ottoman Porte. At bottom they 
were extremely independent bandits, and rav¬ 
aged their neighbours’ territory with great im- 


PREFACE 13 

partiality. They did not allow women to live in 
their towns, which were a kind of nomad en¬ 
campments ; it was there that the Cossack aspir¬ 
ants to military glory went to be trained as 
irregular troops. The most absolute equality 
prevailed among the Zaporogues while at peace 
in the marshes of the Don. Then the chiefs, or 
atamans, when speaking to their subordinates 
always took their caps off. But during an ex¬ 
pedition, on the contrary, their power was un¬ 
limited, and disobedience to the captain of the 
company (Ataman Kotchevoi) was considered the 
greatest of crimes. 

Our filibusters of the seventeenth century have 
many traits of resemblance to the Zaporogues, 
and the histories of both preserve the remem¬ 
brance of prodigies of audacity and of horrible 
cruelties. Taras Bulba is one of those heroes 
with whom, as the student of Schiller said, one 
can only have relations when holding a well- 
loaded gun in one’s hand. I am one of those 
who have a strong liking for bandits; not because 
l like to meet them on my road, but because, in 
spite of myself, the energy these men display in 
struggling against the whole of society, extorts 
from me an admiration of which I am ashamed. 
Formerly I read with delight the lives of Morgan, 
of Donnais, and of Mombars the destroyer, and 
I would not be bored if I read them again. 
However, there are bandits and bandits. Their 


14 PREFACE 

glory is greatly enhanced if they are of a recent 
date. Actual bandits always cast into the shade 
those of the melodrama, and the one who has 
been more recently hung infallibly effaces the 
fame of his predecessors. Nowadays neither 
Mombars nor Taras Bulba can excite so much 
interest as Mussoni, who last month sustained a 
regular siege in a wolf’s den against five hundred 
men, who had to attack him by sapping and 
mining. 

Gogol has made brilliantly coloured pictures 
of his Zaporogues, which please by their very 
grotesqueness; but sometimes it is too evident 
that he has not drawn them from nature. More¬ 
over, these character-pictures are framed in such 
a trivial and romantic setting that one regrets to 
see them so ill-placed. The most prosaic story 
would have suited them better than these melo¬ 
dramatic scenes in which are accumulated tragic 
incidents of famine, torture, etc. In short, one 
feels that the author is not at ease on the ground 
which he has chosen; his gait is awkward, and 
the invariable irony of his style makes the 
perusal of these melancholy incidents more pain¬ 
ful. This style which, in my opinion, is quite out 
of place in some parts of “Taras Bulba,” is 
much more appropriate in the “ Viy,” or “ King 
of the Gnomes,” a tale of witchcraft, which 
amuses and alarms at the same time. The 
grotesque easily blends with the marvellous. 


PREFACE 15 

Recognising to the full the poetic side of his 
subject, the author, while describing the savage 
and strange customs of the old-time Cossacks 
with his usual precision and exactitude, has easily 
prepared the way for the introduction of an 
element of uncanniness. 

The receipt for a good, fantastic tale is well 
known: begin with well-defined portraits of 
eccentric characters, but such as to be within 
the bounds of possibility, described with minute 
realism. From the grotesque to the marvellous 
the transition is imperceptible, and the reader 
will find himself in the world of fantasy before 
he perceives that he has left the real world far 
behind him. I purposely avoid any attempt to 
analyse “ The King of the Gnomes ”; the proper 
time and place to read it is in the country, by the 
fireside on a stormy autumn night. After the 
denouement , it will require a certain amount of 
resolution to traverse long corridors to reach 
one’s room, .while the wind and the rain shake 
the casements. Now that the fantastic style of 
the Germans is a little threadbare, that of the 
Cossacks will have novel charms, and in the first 
place the merit of resembling nothing else—no 
slight praise, I think. 

The “Memoirs of a Madman” is simultane¬ 
ously a social satire, a sentimental story, and a 
medico-legal study of the phenomena presented 
by a brain which is becoming deranged. The 


16 PREFACE 

study, I believe, is carefully made and the pro¬ 
cess carefully depicted, but I do not like this 
class of writing; madness is one of those misfor¬ 
tunes which arouse pity but which disgust at the 
same time. Doubtless, by introducing a mad¬ 
man in his story an author is sure of producing 
an effect. It causes to vibrate a cord which is 
always susceptible; but it is a cheap method, and 
Gogol’s gifts are such as to be able to dispense 
with having resort to such. The portrayal of 
lunatics and dogs—both of whom can produce 
an irresistible effect—should be left to tyros. It 
is easy to extract tears from a reader by breaking 
a poodle’s paw. Homer’s only excuse, in my 
opinion, for making us weep at the mutual recog¬ 
nition of the dog Argus and Ulysses, is because 
he was, I think, the first to discover the resources 
which the canine race offers to an author at a loss 
for expedients. 

I hasten to go on to a small masterpiece, “An 
Old-time Household.” In a few pages Gogol 
sketches for us the life of two honest old folk 
living in the country. There is not a grain of 
malice in their composition; they are cheated 
and adored by their servants, and naive egoists 
as they are, believe everyone is as happy as 
themselves. The wife dies. The husband, who 
only seemed born for merry-making, falls ill and 
dies some months after his wife. We discover 
that there was a heart in this mass of flesh. We 


PREFACE 17 

laugh and weep in turns while reading this 
charming story, in which the art of the narrator 
is disguised by simplicity. All is true and 
natural; every detail is attractive and adds to the 
general effect. 

Translator’s Note .—The rest of Merimee’s 
essay is occupied with analyses of Gogol’s “ Dead 
Souls” and “The Revisor,” and therefore is 
not given here. 


B 







THE MANTLE 

In a certain Russian ministerial department- 

But it is perhaps better that I do not mention 
which department it was. There are in the 
whole of Russia no persons more sensitive than 
Government officials. Each of them believes if 
he is annoyed in any way, that the whole official 
class is insulted in his person. 

Recently an Isprawnik (country magistrate)— 
I do not know of which town—is said to have 
drawn up a report with the object of showing 
that, ignoring Government orders, people were 
speaking of Isprawniks in terms of contempt. In 
order to prove his assertions, he forwarded with 
his report a bulky work of fiction, in which on 
about every tenth page an Isprawnik appeared 
generally in a drunken condition. 

In order therefore to avoid any unpleasant¬ 
ness, I will not definitely indicate the depart¬ 
ment in which the scene of my story is laid, and 
will rather say “ in a certain chancellery.” 

Well, in a certain chancellery there was a 
certain man who, as I cannot deny, was not of 
an attractive appearance. He was short, had a 

19 



'20 THE MANTLE 

face marke'd with smallpox, was rather bald in 
front, and his forehead and cheeks were deeply 
lined with furrows—to say nothing of other 
physical imperfections. Such was the outer 
aspect of our hero, as produced by the St Peters¬ 
burg climate. 

As regards his official rank—for with us 
Russians the official rank' must always be given— 
he was what is usually known as a permanent 
titular councillor, one of those unfortunate beings 
who, as is well known, are made a butt of by 
various authors who have the bad habit of 
attacking people who cannot defend themselves. 

Our hero’s family name was Bashmatchkin; 
his baptismal name Akaki Akakievitch. Per¬ 
haps the reader may think this name somewhat 
strange and far-fetcHed, but he can be assured 
that it is not so, and that circumstances so 
arranged it that it was quite impossible to give 
him any other name. 

This happened in the following way. Akaki 
Akakievitch was born, if I am not mistaken, on 
the night of the 23rd of March. His deceased 
motHer, the wife of an official and a very good 
woman, immediately made proper arrange¬ 
ments for his baptism. When the time came, 
she was lying on the bed before the door. At 
her right hand stood the godfather, Ivan Ivano- 
vitch Jeroshkin, a very important person, who 
was registrar of the senate; at her left, the god- 


THE MANTLE 21 

mother Anna Semenovna Byelobrushkova, the 
wife of a police inspector, a woman of rare 
virtues. 

Three names were suggested to the mother 
from which to choose one for the child— 
Mokuja, Sossuja, or Khozdazat. 

“ No,” she said, “ I don’t like such names.” 

In order to meet her wishes, the church calen¬ 
dar was opened in another place, and the names 
Triphiliy, Dula, and Varakhasiy were found. 

“ This is a punishment from heaven,” said the 
mother. “What sort of names are these! I 
never heard the like! If it had been Varadat 
or Yarukh, but Triphiliy and Varakhasiy! ” 

They looked again in the calendar and found 
Pavsikakhiy and Vakhtisiy. 

“ Now I see,” said the mother, “ this is 
plainly fate. If there is no help for it, then he 
had better take his father’s name, which was 
Akaki.” 

So the child was called Akaki Akakievitch. 
It was baptised, although it wept and cried and 
made all kinds of grimaces, as though it had a 
presentiment that it would one day be a titular 
councillor. 

We have related all this so conscientiously that 
the reader himself might be convinced that it 
was impossible for the little Akaki to receive any 
other name. When and how he entered the 
chancellery and ;who appointed him, no one 


22 THE MANTLE 

could remember. However many of his superiors 
might come and go, he was always seen in the 
same spot, in the same attitude, busy with the 
same work, and bearing the same title; so that 
people began to believe he had come into the 
world just as he was, with his bald forehead and 
official uniform. 

In the chancellery where he worked, no kind 
of notice was taken of him. Even the office 
attendants did not rise from their seats when he 
entered, nor look at him; they took no more 
notice than if a fly had flown through the room. 
His superiors treated him in a coldly despotic 
manner. The assistant of the head of the 
department, when he pushed a pile of papers 
under his nose, did not even say “Please copy 
those,” or “There is something interesting for 
you,” or make any other polite remark such as 
well-educated officials are in the habit of doing. 
But Akaki took the documents, without worrying 
himself whether they had the right to hand them 
over to him or not, and straightway set to work 
to copy them. 

His young colleagues made him the butt of 
their ridicule and their elegant wit, so far as 
officials can be said to possess any wit. They 
did not scruple to relate in his presence various 
tales of their own invention regarding his manner 
of life and his landlady, who was seventy years 
old. They declared that she beat him, and 


THE MANTLE 23 

inquired of him when he would lead her to the 
marriage altar. Sometimes they let a shower 
of scraps of paper fall on his head, and told him 
they were snowflakes. 

But Akaki Akakievitch made no answer to 
all these attacks; he seemed oblivious of their 
presence. His work was not affected in the 
slightest degree; during all these interruptions 
he did not make a single error in copying. Only 
when the horse-play grew intolerable, when he 
was held by the arm and prevented writing, he 
would say ‘ ‘ Do leave me alone! Why do you 
always want to disturb me at work?” There 
was something peculiarly pathetic in these words 
and the way in which he uttered them. 

One day it happened that when a young clerk, 
who had been recently appointed to the chan¬ 
cellery, prompted by the example of the others, 
was playing him some trick, he suddenly seemed 
arrested by something in the tone of Akaki’s 
voice, and from that moment regarded the old 
official with quite different eyes. He felt as though 
some supernatural power drew him away from 
the colleagues whose acquaintance he had made 
here, and whom he had hitherto regarded as 
well-educated, respectable men, and alienated 
him from them. Long afterwards, when sur¬ 
rounded by gay companions, he would see the 
figure of the poor little councillor and hear the 
words ‘ ‘ Do leave me alone! Why will you 



24 THE MANTLE 

always disturb me at work? ” Along with these 
.words, he also heard others: ‘ ‘ Am I not your 
brother? ” On such occasions the young man 
would hide his face in his hands, and think how 
little humane feeling after all was to be found in 
men’s hearts; how much coarseness and cruelty 
was to be found even in the educated and those 
who were everywhere regarded as good and 
honourable men. 

Never was there an official who did his 
work so zealously as Akaki Akakievitch. “ Zeal¬ 
ously,” do I say? He worked with a passionate 
love of his task. While he copied official docu¬ 
ments, a world of varied beauty rose before 
his eyes. His delight in copying was legible in 
his face. To form certain letters afforded him 
special satisfaction, and when he came to them 
he was quite another man; he began to smile, 
his eyes sparkled, and he pursed up his lips, so 
that those who knew him could see by his face 
which letters he was working at. • 

Had he been rewarded according to his zeal, 
he would perhaps—to his own astonishment— 
have been raised to the rank of civic councillor. 
However, he was not destined, as his colleagues 
expressed it, to wear a cross at his buttonhole, 
but only to get hemorrhoids by leading a too 
sedentary life. 

For the rest, I must mention that on one 
occasion he attracted a certain amount of atten- 


THE MANTLE 25 

tion. A director, who was a kindly man and 
wished to reward him for his long service, 
ordered that he should be entrusted with a task 
more important than the documents which he 
usually had to copy. This consisted in prepar¬ 
ing a report for a court, altering the headings of 
various documents, and here and there changing 
the first personal pronoun into the third. 

Akaki undertook the work; but it confused 
and exhausted him to such a degree that the 
sweat ran from his forehead and he at last 
exclaimed : “ No! Please give me again some¬ 
thing to copy.” From that time he was allowed 
to continue copying to his life’s end. 

Outside this copying nothing appeared to exist 
for him. He did not even think of his clothes. 
His uniform, which was originally green, had 
acquired a reddish tint. The collar was so 
narrow and so tight that his neck, although of 
average length, stretched far out of it, and 
appeared extraordinarily long, just like those of 
the cats with movable heads, which are carried 
about on trays and sold to the peasants in Russian 
villages. 

Something was always sticking to his clothes— 
a piece of thread, a fragment of straw which had 
been flying about, etc. Moreover he seemed 
to have a special predilection for passing under 
windows just when something not very clean was 
being thrown out of them, and therefore he 


26 


THE MANTLE 

constantly carried about on his hat pieces of 
orange-peel and such refuse. He never took 
any notice of what was going on in the streets, 
in contrast to his colleagues who were always 
watching people closely and whom nothing de¬ 
lighted more than to see someone walking along 
on the opposite pavement with a rent in his 
trousers. 

But Akaki Akakievitch saw nothing but the 
clean, regular lines of his copies before him; 
and only when he collided suddenly with a 
horse’s nose, which blew its breath noisily in his 
face, did the good man observe that he was not 
sitting at his writing-table among his neat dupli¬ 
cates, but walking in the middle of the street. 

When he arrived home, he sat down at once 
to supper, ate his cabbage-soup hurriedly, and 
then, without taking any notice how it tasted, a 
slice of beef with garlic, together with the flies 
and any other trifles which happened to be 
lying on it. As soon as his hunger was satis¬ 
fied, he set himself to write, and began to copy 
the documents which he had brought home with 
him. If he happened to have no official docu¬ 
ments to copy, he copied for his own satisfaction 
political letters, not for their more or less grand 
style but because they were directed to some 
high personage. 

When the grey St Petersburg sky is darkened 
by the veil of night, and the whole of officialdom 


THE MANTLE 27 

has finished its dinner according to its gastro- 
nomical inclinations or the depth of its purse— 
when all recover themselves from the perpetual 
scratching of bureaucratic pens, and all the cares 
and business with which men so often needlessly 
burden themselves, they devote the evening to 
recreation. One goes to the theatre; another 
roams about the streets, inspecting toilettes; 
another whispers flattering words to some young 
girl who has risen like a star in his modest official 
circle. Here and there one visits a colleague in 
his third or fourth story flat, consisting of two 
rooms with an entrance-hall and kitchen, fitted 
with some pretentious articles of furniture pur¬ 
chased by many abstinences. 

In short, at this time every official betakes him¬ 
self to some form of recreation—playing whist, 
drinking tea, and eating cheap pastry or smok¬ 
ing tobacco in long pipes. Some relate scandals 
about great people, for in whatever situation of 
life the Russian may be, he always likes to hear 
about the aristocracy; others recount well-worn 
but popular anecdotes, as for example that of the 
commandant to whom it was reported that a 
rogue had cut off the horse’s tail on the monu¬ 
ment of Peter the Great. 

But even at this time of rest and recreation, 
Akaki Akakievitch remained faithful to his habits. 
No one could say that he had ever seen him in 
any evening social circle. After he had written 



28 THE MANTLE 

as much as he wanted, he went to bed, and 
thought of the joys of the coming day, and the 
fine copies which God would give him to do. 

So flowed on the peaceful existence of a man 
who was quite content with his post and his in¬ 
come of four hundred roubles a year. He might 
perhaps have reached an extreme old age if one 
of those unfortunate events had not befallen him, 
which not only happen to titular but to actual 
privy, court, and other councillors, and also to 
persons who never give advice nor receive it. 

In St Petersburg all those who draw a salary 
of four hundred roubles or thereabouts have a 
terrible enemy in our northern cold, although 
some assert that it is very good for the health. 
About nine o’clock in the morning, when the 
clerks of the various departments betake them¬ 
selves to their offices, the cold nips their noses 
so vigorously that most of them are quite bewil¬ 
dered. If at this time even high officials so 
suffer from the severity of the cold in their own 
persons that the tears come into their eyes, what 
must be the sufferings of the titular councillors, 
whose means do not allow of their protecting 
themselves against the rigour of winter? When 
they have put on their light cloaks, they must 
hurry through five or six streets as rapidly as 
possible, and then in the porter’s lodge warm 
themselves and wait till their frozen official 
faculties have thawed. 


THE MANTLE 29 

For some time Akaki had been feeling on his 
back and shoulders very sharp twinges of pain, 
although he ran as fast as possible from his 
dwelling to the office. After well considering the 
matter, he came to the conclusion that these 
were due to the imperfections of his cloak'. In his 
room he examined it carefully, and discovered 
that in two or three places it had become so thin 
as to be quite transparent, and that the lining 
was much torn. 

This cloak had been for a long time the stand¬ 
ing object of jests on the part of Akaki’s merci¬ 
less colleagues. They had even robbed it of the 
noble name of “cloak,” and called it a cowl. 
It certainly presented a remarkable appearance. 
Every year the collar had grown smaller, for 
every year the poor titular councillor had taken 
a piece of it away in order to repair some other 
part of the cloak; and these repairs did not look 
as if they had been done by the skilled hand 
of a tailor. They had been executed in a very 
clumsy way and looked remarkably ugly. 

After Akaki Akakievitch had ended his 
melancholy examination, he said to himself that 
he must certainly take his cloak to Petrovitch the 
tailor, who lived high up in a dark den on the 
fourth floor. 

With his squinting eyes and pock-marked face, 
Petrovitch certainly did not look as if he had the 
honour to make frock-coats and trousers for 


30 THE MANTLE 

high officials;—that is to say, when he was sober, 
and not absorbed in more pleasant diversions. 

I might dispense here with dwelling on this 
tailor; but since it is the custom to portray the 
physiognomy of every separate personage in a 
tale, I must give a better or worse description 
of Petrovitch. Formerly when he was a simple 
serf in his master’s house, he was merely called 
Gregor. When he became free, he thought he 
ought to adorn himself with a new name, and 
dubbed himself Petrovitch; at the same time he 
began to drink lustily, not only on the high festi¬ 
vals but on all those which are marked with a 
cross in the calendar. By thus solemnly cele¬ 
brating the days consecrated by the Church, he 
considered that he was remaining faithful to the 
traditions of his childhood; and when he quar¬ 
relled with his' wife, he shouted that she was an 
earthly minded creature and a German. Of this 
lady we have nothing more to relate than that she 
was the wife of Petrovitch, and that she did not 
wear a kerchief but a cap on her head. For the 
rest, she was not pretty; only the soldiers looked 
at her as they passed, then they twirled their 
moustaches and walked on, laughing. 

Akaki Akakievitch accordingly betook himself 
to the tailor’s attic. He reached it by a dark, 
dirty, damp staircase, from which, as in all the 
inhabited houses of the poorer class in St Peters¬ 
burg, exhaled an effluvia of spirits vexatious to 


THE MANTLE 31 

nose and eyes alike. As the titular councillor 
climbed these slippery stairs, he calculated what 
sum Petrovitch could reasonably ask for repair¬ 
ing his cloak, and determined only to give him 
a rouble. 

The door of the tailor’s flat stood open in order 
to provide an outlet for the clouds of smoke which 
rolled from the kitchen, where Petrovitch’s wife 
was just then cooking fish. Akaki, his eyes 
smarting, passed through the kitchen without her 
seeing him, and entered the room where the 
tailor sat on a large, roughly made, wooden table, 
his legs crossed like those of a Turkish pasha, 
and, as is the custom of tailors, with bare feet. 
What first arrested attention, when one ap¬ 
proached him, was his thumb nail, which was a 
little misshapen but as hard and strong as the 
shell of a tortoise. Round his neck were hung 
several skeins of thread, and on his knees lay a 
tattered coat. For some minutes he had been 
trying in vain to thread his needle. He was first 
of all angry with the gathering darkness, then 
with the thread. 

“ Why the deuce won’t you go in, you 
worthless scoundrel! ” he exclaimed. 

Akaki saw at once that he had come at an 
inopportune moment. He wished he had found 
Petrovitch at a more favourable time, when he 
was enjoying himself—when, as his wife ex¬ 
pressed it, he was having a substantial ration of 


32 


THE MANTLE 

b'randy. At sucK times the tailor was extra¬ 
ordinarily ready to meet his customer’s proposals 
with Kows and gratitude to boot. Sometimes 
indeed his wife interfered in the transaction, and 
declared that he was drunk and promised to do 
the work at much too low a price; but if the 
customer paid a trifle more, the matter was 
settled. 

Unfortunately for the titular councillor, 
Petrovitch Had just now not yet touched the 
brandy flask. At such moments he was Hard, 
obstinate, and ready to demand an exorbitant 
price. 

Akaki foresaw this danger, and would gladly 
Have turrfed back again, but it was already too 
late. The tailor’s single eye—for he was one- 
eyed—had already noticed Him, and Akaki 
AkakievitcK murmured involuntarily “Good 
day, Petrovitch.” 

“Welcome, sir,” answered tKe tailor, and 
fastened his glance on the titular councillor’s 
hand to see what he Had in it. 

<f I come just—merely—in order—I want—” 

We must Here remark that the modest titular 
councillor was in the Habit of expressing His' 
thoughts only by prepositions, adverbs, or par¬ 
ticles, which never yielded a distinct meaning. 
If the matter of which he spoke was a difficult 
one, He could never finish the sentence he had 
begun. So that when transacting business, he 


THE MANTLE 33 

generally entangled himself in the formula ‘ * Yes 

—it. is indeed true that-” Then he would 

remain standing and forget what he wished to 
say, or believe that he had said it. 

“ What do you want, sir? ” asked Petrovitch, 
scrutinising him from top to toe with a searching 
look, and contemplating his collar, sleeves, coat, 
buttons—in short his whole uniform, although 
he knew them all very well, having made them 
himself. That is the way of tailors whenever 
they meet an acquaintance. 

Then Akaki answered, stammering as usual, 
“ I want—Petrovitch—this cloak—you see—it is 
still quite good, only a little dusty—and therefore 
it looks a little old. It is, however, still quite 
new, only that it is worn a little—there in the 
back and here in the shoulder—and there are 
three quite little splits. You see it is hardly 
worth talking about; it can be thoroughly re¬ 
paired in a few minutes.” 

Petrovitch took the unfortunate cloak, spread 
it on the table, contemplated it in silence, and 
shook his head. Then he stretched his hand 
towards the window-sill for his snuff-box, a round 
one with the portrait of a general on the lid. 1 
do not know whose portrait it was, for it had been 
accidentally injured, and the ingenious tailor had 
gummed a piece of paper over it. 

After Petrovitch had taken a pinch of snuff, he 
examined the cloak again, held it to the light, and 

c 



34 


THE MANTLE 

once more shook his head. Then he examined 
the lining, took a second pinch of snuff, and at 
last exclaimed, “No! that is a wretched rag! 
It is beyond repair! ” 

At these words Akaki’s courage fell. 

“ What! ” he cried in the querulous tone of a 
child. “Can this hole really not be repaired? 
Look! Petrovitch; there are only two rents, and 
you have enough pieces of cloth to mend them 
with.” 

* ‘ Yes, I have enough pieces of cloth; but how 
should I sew them on? The stuff is quite worn 
out; it won’t bear another stitch.” 

“ Well, can’t you strengthen it with another 
piece of cloth? ” 

“ No, it won’t bear anything more; cloth after 
all is only cloth, and in its present condition a 
gust of wind might blow the wretched mantle into 
tatters.” 

“But if you could only make it last a little 
longer, do you see—really-” •> 

“No!” answered Petrovitch decidedly. 
“ There is nothing more to be done with it; it is 
completely worn out. It would be better if you 
made yourself foot bandages out of it for the 
winter; they are warmer than stockings. It was 
the Germans who invented stockings for their 
own profit.” Petrovitch never lost an oppor¬ 
tunity of having a hit at the Germans. “You 
must certainly buy a new cloak,” he added. 



THE MANTLE 35 

“A new cloak?” exclaimed Akaki Akakie¬ 
vitch, and it grew dark before his eyes. The 
tailor’s work-room seemed to go round with him, 
and the only object he could clearly distinguish 
was the paper-patched general’s portrait on the 
tailor’s snuff-box. “A new cloak!” he mur¬ 
mured, as though half asleep. “ But I have no 
money.” 

“Yes, a new cloak,” repeated Petrovitch with 
cruel calmness. 

“ Well, even if I did decide on it—how 
much-’ ’ 

“ You mean how much would it cost? ” 

“Yes.” 

“About a hundred and fifty roubles,” 
answered the tailor, pursing his lips. This 
diabolical tailor took a special pleasure in 
embarrassing his customers and watching the 
expression of their faces with his squinting 
single eye. 

“A hundred and fifty roubles for a cloak! ’* 
exclaimed Akaki Akakievitch in a tone which 
sounded like an outcry—possibly the fir§t he had 
uttered since his birth. 

“Yes,” replied Petrovitch. “And then the 
marten-fur collar and silk lining for the hood 
would make it up to two hundred roubles.” 

“Petrovitch, L adjure you!” said Akaki 
Akakievitch in an imploring tone, no longer 
hearing nor wishing to hear the tailor’s words. 



36 THE MANTLE 

“ try to make this cloak last me a little 
longer.” 

No, it would be a useless waste of time and 
work.” 

After this answer, Akaki departed, feeling 
quite crushed; while Petrovitch, with his lips 
firmly pursed up, feeling pleased with himself for 
his firmness and brave defence of the art of 
tailoring, remained sitting on the table. 

Meanwhile Akaki wandered about the streets 
like a somnambulist, at random and without an 
object. “What a terrible business!” he said 
to himself. “Really, I could never have be¬ 
lieved that it would come to that. No,” he 
continued after a short pause, “ I could not 
have guessed that it would come to that. Now 
I find myself in a completely unexpected situa¬ 
tion—in a difficulty that-” 

As he thus continued his monologue, instead 
of approaching his dwelling, he went, without 
noticing it, in quite a wrong direction. A 
chimney-sweep brushed against him and black¬ 
ened his back as he passed by. From a house 
where building was going on, a bucket of plaster 
of Paris was emptied on his head. But he saw 
and heard nothing. Only when he collided with 
a sentry, who, after he had planted his halberd 
beside him, was shaking out some snuff from his 
snuff-box with a bony hand, was he startled out 
of his reverie, 



THE MANTLE 37 

“What do you want?” the rough guardian 
of civic order exclaimed. “ Can’t you walk on 
the pavement properly?” 

This sudden address at last completely roused 
Akaki from his torpid condition. He collected 
his thoughts, considered his situation clearly, and 
began to take counsel with himself seriously and 
frankly, as with a friend to whom one entrusts 
the most intimate secrets. 

“ No! ” he said at last. “ To-day I will get 
nothing from Petrovitch—to-day he is in a bad 
humour—perhaps his wife has beaten him—I 
will look him up again next Sunday. On Satur¬ 
day evenings he gets intoxicated; then the next 
day he wants a pick-me-up—his wife gives him 
no money—I squeeze a ten-kopeck piece into 
his hand; then he will be more reasonable and 
we can discuss the cloak further.” 

Encouraged by these reflections, Akaki waited 
patiently till Sunday. On that day, having seen 
Petrovitch’s wife leave the house, he betook 
himself to the tailor’s and found him, as he had 
expected, in a very depressed state as the result 
of his Saturday’s dissipation. But hardly had 
Akaki let a word fall about the mantle than the 
diabolical tailor awoke from his torpor and 
exclaimed, “ No, nothing can be done; you must 
certainly buy a new cloak.” 

The titular councillor pressed a ten-kopeck 
piece into his hand. 


38 


THE MANTLE 

“Thanks, my dear friend,’ 4 said Petrovitch; 
‘ ‘ that will get me a pick-me-up, and I will 
drink your health with it. But as for your old 
mantle, what is the use of talking about it? It 
isn’t worth a farthing. Let me only get to 
work; I will make you a splendid one, I 
promise! ” 

But poor Akaki Akakievitch still importuned 
the tailor to repair his old one. 

“No, and again no,” answered Petrovitch. 
“ It is quite impossible. Trust me; I won’t take 
you in. I will even put silver hooks and eyes 
on the collar, as is now the fashion.” 

This time Akaki saw that he must follow the 
tailor’s advice, and again all his courage sank. 
He must have a new mantle made. But how 
should he pay for it? He certainly expected a 
Christmas bonus at the office; but that money had 
been allotted beforehand. He must buy a pair 
of trousers, and pay his shoemaker for repairing 
two pairs of boots, and buy some fresh linen. 
Even if, by an unexpected stroke of good luck, 
the director raised the usual bonus from forty to 
fifty roubles, what was such a small amount in 
comparison with the immense sum which Petro¬ 
vitch demanded? A mere drop of water in the 
sea. 

At any rate, he might expect that Petrovitch, 
if he were in a good humour, would lower the 
price of the cloak to eighty roubles; but where 


THE MANTLE 39 

were these eighty roubles to be found ? Perhaps 
he might succeed if he left no stone unturned, 
in raising half the sum; but he saw no means of 
procuring the other half. As regards the first 
half, he had been in the habit, as often as he 
received a rouble, of placing a kopeck in a 
money-box. At the end of each half-year he 
changed these copper coins for silver. He had 
been doing this for some time, and his savings 
just now amounted to forty roubles. Thus he 
already had half the required sum. But the 
other half! 

Akaki made long calculations, and at last 
determined that he must, at least for a whole 
year, reduce some of his daily expenses. He 
would have to give up his tea in the evening, and 
copy his documents in his landlady’s room, in 
order to economise the fuel in his own. He also 
resolved to avoid rough pavements as much as 
possible, in order to spare his shoes; and finally 
to give out less washing to the laundress. 

At first he found these deprivations rather 
trying; but gradually he got accustomed to them, 
and at last took to going to bed without any 
supper at all. Although his body suffered from 
this abstinence, his spirit derived all the richer 
nutriment from perpetually thinking about his 
new cloak. From that time it seemed as though 
his nature had completed itself; as though he had 
married and possessed a companion on his life 


40 THE MANTLE 

journey. This companion was the thought of his 
new cloak, properly wadded and lined. 

From that time he became more lively, and 
his character grew stronger, like that of a man 
who has set a goal before himself which he will 
reach at all costs. All that was indecisive and 
vague in his gait and gestures had disappeared. 
A new fire began to gleam in his eyes, and in 
his bold dreams he sometimes even proposed to 
himself the question whether he should not have 
a marten-fur collar made for his coat. 

These and similar thoughts sometimes caused 
him to be absent-minded. As he was copying 
his documents one day he suddenly noticed that 
he had made a slip. “Ugh! ” he exclaimed, 
and crossed himself. 

At least once a month he went to Petrovitch to 
discuss the precious cloak with him, and to settle 
many important questions, e.g. where and at 
what price he should buy the cloth, and what 
colour he should choose. 

Each of these visits gave rise to new discus¬ 
sions, but he always returned home in a happier 
mood, feeling that at last the day must come 
when all the materials would have been bought 
and the cloak would be lying ready to put on. 

This great event happened sooner than he had 
hoped. The director gave him a bonus, not of 
forty or fifty, but of five-and-sixty roubles. Had 
the worthy official noticed that Akaki needed a 


I 


THE MANTLE 41 

new mantle, or was the exceptional amount of 
the gift only due to chance? 

However that might be, Akaki was now richer 
by twenty roubles. Such an access of wealth 
necessarily hastened his important undertaking. 
After two or three more months of enduring 
hunger, he had collected his eighty roubles. 
His heart, generally so quiet, began to beat 
violently; he hastened to Petrovitch, who accom¬ 
panied him to a draper’s shop. There, without 
hesitating, they bought a very fine piece of cloth. 
For more than half a year they had discussed the 
matter incessantly, and gone round the shops 
inquiring prices. Petrovitch examined the cloth, 
and said they would not find anything better. 
For the lining they chose a piece of such firm and 
thickly woven linen that the tailor declared it was 
better than silk; it also had a splendid gloss on 
it. They did not buy marten fur, for it was too 
dear, but chose the best catskin in the shop, 
which was a very good imitation of the former. 

It took Petrovitch quite fourteen days to make 
the mantle, for he put an extra number of 
stitches into it. He charged twelve roubles for 
his work, and said he could not ask less; it was 
all sewn with silk, and the tailor smoothed the 
sutures with his teeth. 

At last the day came—I cannot name it 
certainly, but it assuredly was the most solemn 
in Akaki’s life—when the tailor brought the 


42 THE MANTLE 

cloak. He brought it early in the morning, 
before the titular councillor started for his office. 
He could not have come at a more suitable 
moment, for the cold had again begun to be 
very severe. 

Petrovitch entered the room with the digni¬ 
fied mien of an important tailor. His face wore 
a peculiarly serious expression, such as Akaki 
had never seen on it. He was fully conscious 
of his dignity, and of the gulf which separates 
the tailor who only repairs old clothes from the 
artist who makes new ones. 

The cloak had been brought wrapped up in a 
large, new, freshly washed handkerchief, which 
the tailor carefully opened, folded, and placed 
in his pocket. Then he proudly took the cloak 
in both hands and laid it on Akaki Akakievitch’s 
shoulders. He pulled it straight behind to see 
how it hung majestically in its whole length. 
Finally he wished to see the effect it made when 
unbuttoned. Akaki, however, wished to try 
the sleeves, which fitted wonderfully well. In 
brief, the cloak was irreproachable, and its fit 
and cut left nothing to be desired. 

While the tailor was contemplating his work, 
he did not forget to say that the only reason he 
had charged so little for making it, was that he 
had only a low rent to pay and had known Akaki 
Akakievitch for a long time; he declared that 
any tailor who lived on the Nevski Prospect 


THE MANTLE 43 

would have charged at least five-and-sixty 
roubles for making up such a cloak. 

The titular councillor did not let himself be 
involved in a discussion on the subject. He 
thanked him, paid him, and then sallied forth on 
bis way to the office. 

Petrovitch went out with him, and remained 
Standing in the street to watch Akaki as long as 
possible wearing the mantle; then he hurried 
through a cross-alley and came into the main 
street again to catch another glimpse of him. 

Akaki went on his way in high spirits. Every 
moment he was acutely conscious of having 
a new cloak on, and smiled with sheer self- 
complacency. His head was filled with only 
two ideas: first that the cloak was warm, and 
secondly that it was beautiful. Without notic¬ 
ing anything on the road, he marched straight to 
the chancellery, took off his treasure in the hall, 
and solemnly entrusted it to the porter’s care. 

I do not know how the report spread in the 
office that Akaki’s old cloak had ceased to exist. 
All his colleagues hastened to see his splendid 
new ojie, and then began to congratulate him 
so warmly that he at first had to smile with 
self-satisfaction, but finally began to feel em¬ 
barrassed. 

But how great was his surprise when his cruel 
colleagues remarked that he should formally 
“handsel” his cloak by giving them a feast! 


44 


THE MANTLE 

Poor Akaki was so disconcerted and taken aback, 
that he did not know what to answer nor how to 
excuse himself. He stammered out, blushing, 
that the cloak was not so new as it appeared; it 
was really second-hand. 

One of his superiors, who probably wished to 
show that he was not too proud of his rank and 
title, and did not disdain social intercourse with 
his subordinates, broke in and said, ‘ ‘ Gentle¬ 
men ! Instead of Akaki Akakievitch, I will in¬ 
vite you to a little meal. Come to tea with 
me this evening. To-day happens to be my 
birthday.” 

All the others thanked him for his kind 
proposal, and joyfully accepted his invitation. 
Akaki at first wished to decline, but was told 
that to do so would be grossly impolite and 
unpardonable, so he reconciled himself to the 
inevitable. Moreover, he felt a certain satisfac¬ 
tion at the thought that the occasion would give 
him a new opportunity of displaying his cloak in 
the streets. This whole day for him was like a 
festival-day. In the cheerfullest possible mood 
he returned home, took off his cloak, and hung 
it up on the wall after once more examining the 
cloth and the lining. Then he took out his old 
one in order to compare it with Petrovitch’s 
masterpiece. His looks passed from one to 
the other, and he thought to himself, smiling, 
“ What a difference!” 


THE MANTLE 45 

He ate his supper cheerfully, and after he 
had- finished, did not sit down as usual to copy 
documents. No; he lay down, like a Sybarite, 
on the sofa and waited. When the time came, 
he made his toilette, took his cloak, and went 
out. 

I cannot say where was the house of the 
superior official who so graciously invited his 
subordinates to tea. My memory begins to grow 
weak, and the innumerable streets and houses 
of St Petersburg go round so confusedly in my 
head that I have difficulty in finding my way 
about them. So much, however, is certain: 
that the honourable official lived in a very fine 
quarter of the city, and therefore very far from 
Akaki Akakievitch’s dwelling. 

At first the titular councillor traversed several 
badly lit streets which seemed quite empty; but 
the nearer he approached his superior’s house, 
the more brilliant and lively the streets became. 
He met many people, among whom were 
elegantly dressed ladies, and men with beaver- 
skin collars. The peasants’ sledges, with their 
wooden seats and brass studs, became rarer; 
while now every moment appeared skilled coach¬ 
men with velvet caps, driving lacquered sleighs 
covered with bearskins, and fine carriages. 

At last he reached the house whither he had 
been invited. His host lived in a first-rate style; 
a lamp hung before his door, and he occupied 


46 


THE MANTLE 

the whole of the second story. As Akaki 
entered the vestibule, he saw a long row of 
galoshes; on a table a samovar was smoking and 
hissing; many cloaks, some of them adorned 
with velvet and fur collars, hung on the wall. 
In the adjoining room he heard a confused noise, 
which assumed a more decided character when 
a servant opened the door and came out bearing 
a tray full of empty cups, a milk-jug, and a 
basket of biscuits. Evidently the guests had 
been there some time and had already drunk 
their first cup of tea. 

After hanging his cloak on a peg, Akaki 
approached the room in which his colleagues, 
smoking long pipes, were sitting round the card- 
table and making a good deal of noise. He 
entered the room, but remained standing by the 
door, not knowing what to do; but his colleagues 
greeted him with loud applause, and all hastened 
into the vestibule to take another look at his 
cloak. This excitement quite robbed the good 
titular councillor of his composure; but in his 
simplicity of heart he rejoiced at the praises 
which were lavished on his precious cloak. 
Soon afterwards his colleagues left him to him¬ 
self and resumed their whist parties. 

Akaki felt much embarrassed, and did not 
know what to do with his feet and hands. 
Finally he sat down by the players; looked now 
at their, faces and now at the cards; then he 


THE MANTLE 47 

yawned and remembered that it was long past 
his usual bedtime. He made an attempt to go, 
but they held him back and told him that he 
could not do so without drinking a glass of 
champagne on what was for him such a memor¬ 
able day. 

Soon supper was brought. It consisted of 
cold veal, cakes, and pastry of various kinds, 
accompanied by several bottles of champagne. 
Akaki was obliged to drink two glasses of it, and 
found everything round him take on a more 
cheerful aspect. But he could not forget that it 
was already midnight and that he ought to have 
been in bed long ago. From fear of being kept 
back again, he slipped furtively into the vesti¬ 
bule, where he was pained to find his cloak lying 
on the ground. He carefully shook it, brushed 
it, put it on, and went out. 

The street-lamps were still alight. Some of 
the small ale-houses frequented by servants and 
the lower classes were still open, and some had 
just been shut; but by the beams of light which 
shone through the chinks of the doors, it was 
easy to see that there were still people inside, 
probably male and female domestics, who were 
quite indifferent to their employers’ interests. 

Akaki Akakievitch turned homewards in a 
cheerful mood. Suddenly he found himself in 
a long street where it was very quiet by day and 
still more so at night. The surroundings were 


48 THE MANTLE 

very dismal. Only here and there hung a lamp 
which threatened to go out for want of oil; there 
were long rows of wooden houses with wooden 
fences, but no sign of a living soul. Only the 
snow in the street glimmered faintly in the dim 
light of the half-extinguished lanterns, and the 
little houses looked melancholy in the darkness. 

Akaki went on till the street opened into an 
enormous square, on the other side of which the 
houses were scarcely visible, and which looked 
like a terrible desert. At a great distance—God 
knows where!—glimmered the light in a sentry- 
box, which seemed to stand at the end of the 
world. At the same moment Akakiys cheerful 
mood vanished. He went in the direction of the 
light with a vague sense of depression, as though 
some mischief threatened him. On the way he 
kept looking round him with alarm. The huge, 
melancholy expanse looked to him like a sea. 
“ No,” he thought to himself, “ I had better not 
look at it and he continued his way with his 
eyes fixed on the ground. When he raised them 
again he suddenly saw just in front of him several 
men with long moustaches, whose faces he could 
not distinguish. Everything grew dark before 
his eyes, and his heart seemed to be constricted. 

“ That is my cloak! ” shouted one of the men, 
and seized him by the collar. Akaki tried to 
call for help. Another man pressed a great 
bony fist on his mouth, and said to him, “ Just 


THE MANTLE 49 

try to scream again! ” At the same moment 
the unhappy titular councillor felt the cloak 
snatched away from him, and simultaneously 
received a kick which stretched him senseless 
in the snow. A few minutes later he came to 
himself and stood up; but there was no longer 
anyone in sight. Robbed of his cloak, and feel¬ 
ing frozen to the marrow, he began to shout with 
all his might; but his voice did not reach the end 
of the huge square. Continuing to shout, he 
ran with the rage of despair to the sentinel in the 
sentry-box, who, leaning on his halberd, asked 
him why the deuce he was making such a hellish 
noise and running so violently. 

When Akaki reached the sentinel, he accused 
him of being drunk because he did not see that 
passers-by were robbed a short distance from his 
sentry-box. 

“I saw you quite well,” answered the sen¬ 
tinel, “ in the middle of the square with two 
men; I thought you were friends. It is no good 
getting so excited. Go to-morrow to the police 
inspector; he will take up the matter, have the 
thieves searched for, and make an examina¬ 
tion.” 

Akaki saw there was nothing to be done but 
to go home. He reached his dwelling in a state 
of dreadful disorder, his hair hanging wildly 
over his forehead, and his clothes covered 
With snpw. When his old landlady heard him 

P 


50 THE MANTLE 

knocking violently at the door, she sprang up 
afid hastened thither, only half-dressed; but at 
the sight of Akaki started back in alarm. When 
he told her what had happened, she clasped her 
hands together and said, ‘ ‘ You should not go to 
the police inspector, but to the municipal Super¬ 
intendent of the district. The inspector will put 
you off with fine words, and do nothing; but I 
have known the Superintendent for a long time. 
My former cook, Anna, is now in his service, 
and I often see him pass by under our windows. 
He goes to church on all the festival-days, and 
one sees at once by his looks that he is an honest 
man/ 1 

After hearing this eloquent recommendation, 
Akaki retired sadly to his room. Those who can 
picture to themselves such a situation will under¬ 
stand what sort of a night he passed. As early 
as possible the next morning he went to the 
Superintendent’s house. The servants told him 
that he was still asleep. At ten o’clock he 
returned, only to receive the same reply. At 
twelve o’clock the Superintendent had gone out. 

About dinner-time the titular councillor called 
again, but the clerks asked him in a severe tone 
what was his business with their superior. Then 
for the first time in his life Akaki displayed an 
energetic character. He declared that it was 
absolutely necessary for him to speak with the 
Superintendent on an official matter, and that 


THE MANTLE 51 

anyone who ventured to put difficulties in his 
way would have to pay dearly for it. 

This left them without reply. One of the 
clerks departed, in order to deliver his message. 
When Akaki was admitted to the Superinten¬ 
dent’s presence, the latter’s way of receiving his 
story was somewhat singular. Instead of con¬ 
fining himself to the principal matter—the theft, 
he asked the titular councillor how he came to 
be out so late, and whether he had not been in 
suspicious company. 

Taken aback by such a question, Akaki did 
not know what to answer, and went away with¬ 
out knowing whether any steps would be taken 
in the matter or not. 

The whole day he had not been in his office— 
a perfectly new event in his life. The next day 
he appeared there again with a pale face and 
restless aspect, in his old cloak, which looked 
more wretched than ever. When his colleagues 
heard of his misfortune, some were cruel enough 
to laugh; most of them, however, felt a sincere 
sympathy with him, and started a subscription 
for his benefit; but this praiseworthy undertak¬ 
ing had only a very insignificant result, because 
these same officials had been lately called upon 
to contribute to two other subscriptions—in the 
first case to purchase a portrait of their director, 
and in the second to buy a work which a friend 
of his had published, 


52 


THE MANTLE 

One of them, who felt sincerely sorry for 
Akaki, gave him some good advice for want of 
something better. He told him it was a waste 
of time to go again to the Superintendent, 
because even in case that this official succeeded 
in recovering the cloak, the police would keep it 
till the titular councillor had indisputably proved 
that he was the real owner of it. Akaki’s friend 
suggested to him to go to a certain important 
personage, who because of his connection with 
the authorities could expedite the matter. 

In his bewilderment, Akaki resolved to follow 
this advice. It was not known what position 
this personage occupied, nor how high it really 
was; the only facts known were that he had 
only recently been placed in it, and that there 
must be still higher personages than himself, as 
he was leaving no stone unturned in order to get 
promotion. When he entered his private room, 
he made his subordinates wait for him on the 
stairs below, and no one had direct access to 
him. If anyone called with a request to see him, 
the secretary of the board informed the Govern¬ 
ment secretary, who in his turn passed it on to 
a higher official, and the latter informed the 
important personage himself. 

That is the way business is carried on in our 
Holy Russia. In the endeavour to resemble the 
higher officials, everyone imitates the manners 
pf his superiors. Not long ago a titular coun- 


THE MANTLE 53 

cillor, who was appointed to the headship of a 
little office, immediately placed over the door 
of one of his two tiny rooms the inscription 
“Council-chamber.” Outside it were placed 
servants with red collars and lace-work on their 
coats, in order to announce petitioners, and to 
conduct them into the chamber which was hardly 
large enough to contain a chair. 

But let us return to the important personage 
in question. His way of carrying things on was 
dignified and imposing, but a trifle complicated. 
His system might be summed up in a single 
word—“ severity.” This word he would repeat 
in a sonorous tone three times in succession, and 
the last time turn a piercing look on the person 
with whom he happened to be speaking. He 
might have spared himself the trouble of dis¬ 
playing so much disciplinary energy; the ten 
officials who were under his command feared 
him quite sufficiently without it. As soon as 
they were aware of his approach, they would lay 
down their pens, and hasten to station them¬ 
selves in a respectful attitude as he passed by. 
In converse with his subordinates, he preserved 
a stiff, unbending attitude, and generally con¬ 
fined himself to such expressions as “ What do 
you want? Do you know with whom you are 
speaking? Do you consider who is in front of 
you? ” 

For the rest, he was a good-natured man, 


54 


THE MANTLE 

friendly and amiable with his acquaintances. 
But the title of ‘ ‘ District-Superintendent ’ ’ had 
turned his head. Since the time when it had 
been bestowed upon him, he lived for a great 
part of the day in a kind of dizzy self-intoxica¬ 
tion. Among his equals, however, he recovered 
his equilibrium, and then showed his real 
amiability in more than one direction; but as 
soon as he found himself in the society of anyone 
of less rank than himself, he entrenched himself 
in a severe taciturnity. This situation was all 
the more painful for him as he was quite aware 
that he might have passed his time more agree¬ 
ably. 

All who watched him at such moments per¬ 
ceived clearly that he longed to take part in an 
interesting conversation, but that the fear of 
displaying some unguarded courtesy, of appear¬ 
ing too confidential, and thereby doing a deadly 
injury to his dignity, held him back. In order 
to avoid such a risk, he maintained an unnatural 
reserve, and only spoke from time to time in 
monosyllables. He had driven this habit to such 
a pitch that people called him “The Tedious,” 
and the title was well deserved. 

Such was the person to whose aid Akaki 
wished to appeal. The moment at which he 
came seemed expressly calculated to flatter the 
Superintendent’s vanity, and accordingly to help 
forward the titular councillor’s cause. 


THE MANTLE 55 

The high personage was seated in his office,, 
talking cheerfully with an old friend whom he 
had not seen for several years, when he .was told 
that a gentleman named Akakievitch begged for 
the honour of an interview. 

“Who is the man?” asked the Superinten¬ 
dent in a contemptuous tone. 

“An official/’ answered the servant. 

“ He must wait. I have no time to receive 
him now.” 

The high personage lied; there .was nothing 
in the way of his granting the desired audience. 
His friend and himself had already quite ex¬ 
hausted various topics of conversation. Many 
long, embarrassing pauses had occurred, during 
which they had lightly tapped each other on the 
shoulder, saying, “ So it was, you see.” 

“ Yes, Stepan.” 

But the Superintendent refused to receive the 
petitioner, in order to show his friend, who had 
quitted the public service and lived in the 
country, his own importance, and how officials 
must wait in the vestibule till he chose to receive 
them. 

At last, after they had discussed various other 
subjects with other intervals of silence, during 
which the two friends leaned back in their chairs 
and blew cigarette smoke in the air, the Super¬ 
intendent seemed suddenly to remember that 
someone had sought an interview with him. He 


56 THE MANTLE 

called the secretary, who stood with a roll of 
papers in his hand at the door, and told him to 
admit the petitioner. 

When he saw Akaki approaching with his 
humble expression, wearing his shabby old 
uniform, he turned round suddenly towards him 
and said “What do you want?” in a severe 
voice, accompanied by a vibrating intonation 
which at the time of receiving his promotion he 
had practised before the looking-glass for eight 
days. 

The modest Akaki was quite taken aback by 
his harsh manner; however, he made an effort 
to recover his composure, and to relate how his 
cloak had been stolen, but did not do so without 
encumbering his narrative with a mass of super¬ 
fluous detail. He added that he had applied to 
His Excellence in the hope that through his 
making a representation to the police inspector, 
or some other high personage, the cloak might 
be traced. ; 

The Superintendent found Akaki’s method of 
procedure somewhat unofficial. “Ah, sir,” he 
said, “don’t you know what steps you ought to 
take in such a case ? Don’t you know the proper 
procedure? You should have handed in your 
petition at the chancellery. This in due course 
would have passed through the hands of the chief 
clerk and director of the bureau. It would 
then have been brought before my secretary, 


THE MANTLE 57 

who would have made a communication to 
you.” 

“ Allow me,” replied Akaki, making a strenu¬ 
ous effort to preserve the remnants of his 
presence of mind, for he felt that the perspira¬ 
tion stood on his forehead, * ‘ allow me to remark 
to Your Excellence that I ventured to trouble 
you personally in this matter because secretaries 
—secretaries are a hopeless kind of people.” 

“ What! How! Is it possible?” exclaimed 
the Superintendent. “ How could you say such 
a thing? Where have you got your ideas from? 
It is disgraceful to see young people so rebellious 
towards their superiors.” In his official zeal 
the Superintendent overlooked the fact that the 
titular councillor was well on in the fifties, and 
that the word “ young ” could only apply to him 
conditionally, i.e. in comparison with a man of 
seventy. “Do you also know,” he continued, 
“with whom you are speaking? Do you con¬ 
sider before whom you are standing? Do you 
consider, I ask you, do you consider? ” As he 
spoke, he stamped his foot, and his voice grew 
deeper. 

Akaki was quite upset—nay, thoroughly 
frightened; he trembled and shook and could 
hardly remain standing upright. Unless one of 
the office servants had hurried to help him, he 
would have fallen to the ground. As it was, he 
was dragged out almost unconscious. 


58 


THE MANTLE 

But the Superintendent was quite delighted at 
the effect he had produced. It exceeded all his 
expectations, and filled with satisfaction at the 
fact that his words made such an impression on a 
middle-aged man that he lost consciousness, he 
cast a side-glance at his friend to see what effect 
the scene had produced on him. His self- 
satisfaction was further increased when he ob¬ 
served that his friend also was moved, and looked 
at him half-timidly. 

Akaki had no idea how he got down the stairs 
and crossed the street, for he felt more dead than 
alive. In his whole life he had never been so 
scolded by a superior official, let alone one whom 
he had never seen before. 

He wandered in the storm which raged without 
taking the least care of himself, nor sheltering 
himself on the side-walk against its fury. The 
wind, which blew from all sides and out of all the 
narrow streets, caused him to contract inflamma¬ 
tion of the throat. When he reached home he 
was unable to speak a word, and went straight 
to bed. 

Such was the result of the Superintendent’s 
lecture. 

The next day Akaki had a violent fever. 
Thanks to the St Petersburg climate, his illness 
developed with terrible rapidity. When the 
doctor came, he saw that the case was already 
hopeless; he felt his pulse and ordered him some 


THE MANTLE 69 

poultices, merely in order that he should not die 
without some medical help, and declared at once 
that he had only two days to live. After giving 
this opinion, he said to Akaki’s landlady, “ There 
is no time to be lost; order a pine coffin, for an 
oak one would be too expensive for this poor 
man.” 

Whether the titular councillor heard these 
words, whether they excited him and made him 
lament his tragic lot, no one ever knew, for he 
was delirious all the time. Strange pictures 
passed incessantly through his weakened brain. 
At one time he saw Petrovitch the tailor and 
asked him to make a cloak with nooses attached 
for the thieves who persecuted him in bed, and 
begged his old landlady to chase away the 
robbers who were hidden under his coverlet. 
At another time he seemed to be listening to the 
Superintendent’s severe reprimand, and asking 
his forgiveness. Then he uttered such strange 
and confused remarks that the old woman 
crossed herself in alarm. She had never heard 
anything of the kind in her life, and these ravings 
astonished her all the more because the expres¬ 
sion “Your Excellency” constantly occurred 
in them. Later on he murmured wild discon¬ 
nected words, from which it could only be 
gathered that his thoughts were continually 
revolving round a cloak. 

At last Akaki breathed his last. Neither his. 


60 


THE MANTLE 

room nor his cupboard were officially sealed up, 
for the simple reason that he had no heir and left 
nothing behind him but a bundle of goose-quills, 
a notebook of white paper, three pairs of socks, 
some trouser buttons, and his old coat. 

Into whose possession did these relics pass? 
Heaven only knows! The writer of this narra¬ 
tive has never inquired. 

Akaki was wrapped in his shroud, and laid 
to rest in the churchyard. The great city of 
St Petersburg continued its life as though he 
had never existed. Thus disappeared a human 
creature who had never possessed a patron or 
friend, who had never elicited real hearty 
sympathy from anyone, nor even aroused the 
curiosity of the naturalists, though they are most 
eager to subject a rare insect to microscopic 
examination. 

Without a complaint he had borne the scorn 
and contempt of his colleagues; he had pro¬ 
ceeded on his quiet way to the grave without 
anything extraordinary happening to him—only 
towards the end of his life he had been joyfully 
excited by the possession of a new cloak, and 
had then been overthrown by misfortune. 

Some days after his conversation with the 
Superintendent, his superior in the chancellery, 
where no one knew what had become of him, 
sent an official to his house to demand his 
presence. The official returned with the news 


THE MANTLE 61 

that no one would see the titular councillor any 
more. 

“ Why? ” asked all the clerks. 

“ Because he was buried four days ago.” 

In such a manner did Akaki’s colleagues hear 
of his death. 

The next day his place was occupied by an 
official of robuster fibre, a man who did not 
trouble to make so many fair transcripts of state 
documents. 


It seems as though Akaki’s story ended here, 
and that there was nothing more to be said 
of him; but the modest titular councillor was 
destined to attract more notice after his death 
than during his life, and our tale now assumes a 
somewhat ghostly complexion. 

One day there spread in St Petersburg the 
report that near the Katinka Bridge there 
appeared every night a spectre in a uniform like 
that of the chancellery officials; that he was 
searching for a stolen cloak, and stripped all 
passers-by of their cloaks without any regard 
for rank or title. It mattered not whether they 
were lined with wadding, mink, cat, otter, bear, 
or beaverskin; he took all he could get hold of. 
One of the titular councillor’s former colleagues 
had seen the ghost, and quite clearly recognised 
Akaki- He rap as hard as he could and imp- 


62 THE MANTLE 

aged to escape, but had seen him shaking his fist 
in the distance. Everywhere it was reported 
that councillors, and not only titular councillors 
but also state-councillors, had caught serious 
colds in their honourable backs on account of 
these raids. 

The police adopted all possible measures in 
order to get this ghost dead or alive into their 
power, and to inflict an exemplary punishment 
on him; but all their attempts were vain. 

One evening, however, a sentinel succeeded 
in getting hold of the malefactor just as he 
was trying to rob a musician of his cloak. The 
sentinel summoned with all the force of his lungs 
two of his comrades, to whom he entrusted the 
prisoner while he sought for his snuff-box in 
order to bring some life again into his half-frozen 
nose. Probably his snuff was so strong that 
even a ghost could not stand it. Scarcely had 
the sentinel thrust a grain or two up his nostrils 
than the prisoner began to sneeze so violently 
that a kind of mist rose before the eyes of the 
sentinels. While the three were rubbing their 
eyes, the prisoner disappeared. Since that day, 
all the sentries were so afraid of the ghost that 
they did not even venture to arrest the living 
but shouted to them from afar <f Go on! Go 
on! 

Meanwhile the ghost extended his depreda¬ 
tions to the other side of the Katinka Bridge, and 


THE MANTLE 63 

spread dismay and alarm in the whole of the 
quarter. 

But now we must return to the Superinten¬ 
dent, who is the real origin of our fantastic yet 
so veracious story. First of all we must do him 
the justice to state that after Akaki’s departure 
he felt a certain sympathy for him. He was by 
no means without a sense of justice—no, he 
possessed various good qualities, but his infatu¬ 
ation about his title hindered him from showing 
his good side. When his friend left him, hia 
thoughts began to occupy themselves with the 
unfortunate titular councillor, and from that 
moment onwards he saw him constantly in his 
mind’s eye, crushed by the severe reproof which 
had been administered to him. This image so 
haunted him that at last one day he ordered one 
of his officials to find out what had become of 
Akaki, and whether anything could be done for 
him. 

When the messenger returned with the news 
that the poor man had died soon after that 
interview, the Superintendent felt a pang in his 
conscience, and remained the whole day ab¬ 
sorbed in melancholy brooding. 

In order to banish his unpleasant sensations, 
he went in the evening to a friend’s house, where 
he hoped to find pleasant society and what was 
the chief thing, some other officials of his own 
rank, so that he would not be obliged to feel 


64 


THE MANTLE 

bored. And in fact he did succeed in throwing 
off his melancholy thoughts there; he unbent 
and became lively, took an active part in the 
conversation, and passed a very pleasant even¬ 
ing. At supper he drank two glasses of cham¬ 
pagne, which, as everyone knows, is an effective 
means of heightening one’s cheerfulness. 

As he sat in his sledge, wrapped in his mantle, 
on his way home, his mind was full of pleasant 
reveries. He thought of the society in which 
he had passed such a cheerful evening, and of 
all the excellent jokes with which he had made 
them laugh. He repeated some of them to 
himself half-aloud, and laughed at them again. 

From time to time, however, he was disturbed 
in this cheerful mood by violent gusts of wind, 
which from some corner or other blew a quantity 
of snowflakes into his face, lifted the folds of his 
cloak, and made it belly like a sail, so that he 
had to exert all his strength to hold it firmly on 
his shoulders. Suddenly he felt a powerful hand 
seize him by the collar. He turned round, per¬ 
ceived a short man in an old, shabby uniform, 
and recognised with terror Akaki’s face, which 
wore a deathly pallor and emaciation. 

The titular councillor opened his mouth, from 
which issued a kind of corpse-like odour, and 
with inexpressible fright the Superintendent 
heard him say, “At last I have you—by the 
Qollar! I need your cloak. You did JWt 


THE MANTLE 65 

trouble about me when I was in distress; you 
thought it necessary to reprimand me. Now 
give me your cloak.” 

The high dignitary nearly choked. In his 
office, and especially in the presence of his 
subordinates, he was a man of imposing 
manners. He only needed to fix his eye on one 
of them and they all seemed impressed by his 
pompous bearing. But, as is the case with 
many such officials, all this was only outward 
show; at this moment he felt so upset that he 
seriously feared for his health. Taking off his 
cloak with a feverish, trembling hand, he handed 
it to Akaki, and called to his coachman, “ Drive 
home quickly.” 

When the coachman heard this voice, which 
did not sound as it usually did, and had often 
been accompanied by blows of a whip, he bent 
his head cautiously and drove on apace. 

Soon afterwards the Superintendent found 
himself at home. Cloakless, he retired to his 
room with a pale face and wild looks, and had 
such a bad night that on the following morning 
his daughter exclaimed “ Father, are you ill? ” 
But he said nothing of what he had seen, though 
a very deep impression had been made on him. 
From that day onwards he no longer addressed 
to his subordinates in a violent tone the words, 
“Do you know with whom you are speaking? 
Do you know who is standing before you? ” Or 

E 


66 THE MANTLE 

if it ever did happen that he spoke to them in a 
domineering tone, it was not till he had first 
listened to what they had to say. 

Strangely enough, from that time the spectre 
never appeared again. Probably it .was the 
Superintendent’s cloak which he had been seek¬ 
ing so earnestly; now he had it and did not 
want anything more. Various persons, however, 
asserted that this formidable ghost was still to be 
seen in other parts of the city. A sentinel went 
so far as to say that he had seen him with his own 
eyes glide like a furtive shadow behind a house. 
But this sentinel was of such a nervous disposi¬ 
tion that he had been chaffed about his timidity 
more than once. Since he did not venture to 
seize the flitting shadow, he stole after it in the 
darkness; but the shadow turned round and 
shouted at him “ What do you want? ” shaking 
an enormous fist, such as no man had ever, 
possessed. 

“I want nothing,” answered the sentry, 
quickly retiring. 

This shadow, however, was taller than the 
ghost of the titular councillor, and had an enor¬ 
mous moustache. He went with great strides 
towards the Obuchoff Bridge, and disappeared in 
the darkness. 


THE NOSE 

I 

On the 25th March, 18—, a very strange occur¬ 
rence took place in St Petersburg. On the 
Ascension Avenue there lived a barber of the 
name of Ivan Jakovlevitch. He had lost his 
family name, and on his sign-board, on which 
was depicted the head of a gentleman with one 
cheek soaped, the only inscription to be read 
was, “Blood-letting done here.” 

On this particular morning he awoke pretty 
early. Becoming aware of the smell of fresh- 
baked bread, he sat up a little in bed, and saw 
his wife, who had a special partiality for coffee, 
in the act of taking some fresh-baked bread out 
of the oven. 

“To-day, Prasskovna Ossipovna,” he said, 
“ I do not want any coffee; I should like a fresh 
loaf with onions.” 

“ The blockhead may eat bread only as far as 
I am concerned,” said his wife to herself; “ then 
I shall have a chance of getting some coffee.” 
And she threw a loaf on the table. 

67 


68 


THE NOSE 

For the sake of propriety, Ivan Jakovlevitch 
drew a coat over his shirt, sat down at the table, 
shook out some salt for himself, prepared two 
onions, assumed a serious expression, and began 
to cut the bread. After he had cut the loaf in 
two halves, he looked, and to his great astonish¬ 
ment saw something whitish sticking in it. He 
carefully poked round it with his knife, and felt 
it with his finger. 

“Quite firmly fixed!” he murmured in his 
beard. “ What can it be? ” 

He put in his finger, and drew out—a nose! 

Ivan Jakovlevitch at first let his hands fall 
from sheer astonishment; then he rubbed his 
eyes and began to feel it. A nose, an actual 
nose; and, moreover, it seemed to be the nose 
of an acquaintance! Alarm and terror were 
depicted in Ivan’s face; but these feelings were 
slight in comparison with the disgust which took 
possession of his wife. 

“Whose nose have you cut off, you 
monster?” she screamed, her face red with 
anger. “ You scoundrel! You tippler! I my¬ 
self will report you to the police! Such a 
rascal! Many customers have told me that 
while you were shaving them, you held them so 
tight by the nose that they could hardly sit still.” 

But Ivan Jakovlevitch was more dead than 
alive; he saw at once that this nose could belong 
to no other than to Kovaloff, a member of the 


THE NOSE 69 

Municipal Committee whom he shaved every 
Sunday and Wednesday. 

“Stop, Prasskovna Ossipovna! I will wrap 
it in a piece of cloth and place it in the corner. 
There it may remain for the present; later on I 
will take it away.” 

* ‘ No, not there! Shall I endure an ampu¬ 
tated nose in my room? You understand 
nothing except how to strop a razor. You know 
nothing of the duties and obligations of a respect¬ 
able man. You vagabond! You good-for- 
nothing ! Am I to undertake all responsibility 
for you at the police-office? Ah, you soap- 
smearer! You blockhead! Take it away where 
you like, but don’t, let it stay under my 
eyes!” 

Ivan Jakovlevitch stood there flabbergasted. 
He thought and thought, and knew not what he 
thought. 

“The devil knows how that happened!” he 
said at last, scratching his head behind his ear. 
“Whether I came home drunk last night or not, 
I really don’t know; but in all probability this 
i3 a quite extraordinary occurrence, for a loaf 
is something baked and a nose is something 
different. I don’t understand the matter at 
all.” And Ivan Jakovlevitch was silent. The 
thought that the police might find him in unlaw¬ 
ful possession of a nose and arrest him, robbed 
him of all presence of mind. Already he began 


70 THE NOSE 

to have visions of a red collar with silver braid 
and of a sword—and he trembled all over. 

At last he finished dressing himself, and to the 
accompaniment of the emphatic exhortations of 
his spouse, he wrapped up the nose in a cloth and 
issued into the street. 

He intended to lose it somewhere—either at 
somebody’s door, or in a public square, or in a 
narrow alley; but just then, in order to complete 
his bad luck, he was met by an acquaintance, 
who showered inquiries upon him. “Hullo, 
Ivan Jakovlevitch! Whom are you going to 
shave so early in the morning?” etc., so that 
he could find no suitable opportunity to do what 
he wanted. Later on he did let the nose drop, 
but a sentry bore down upon him with his 
halberd, and said, “Look out! You have let 
something drop!” and Ivan Jakovlevitch was 
obliged to pick it up and put it in his pocket. 

A feeling of despair began to take possession 
of him; all the more as the streets became more 
thronged and the merchants began to open their 
shops. At last he resolved to go to the Isaac 
Bridge, where perhaps he might succeed in 
throwing it into the Neva. 

But my conscience is a little uneasy that I have 
not yet given any detailed information about 
Ivan Jakovlevitch, an estimable man in many 
ways. 

Like every honest Bussian tradesman, Ivan 


THE NOSE 71 

Jakovlevitch was a terrible drunkard, and 
although he shaved other peopled faces every 
day, his own was always unshaved. His coat 
(he never wore an overcoat) was quite mottled, 
i.e. it had been black, but become brownish- 
yellow; the collar was quite shiny, and instead 
of the three buttons, only the threads by which 
they had been fastened were to be seen. 

Ivan Jakovlevitch was a great cynic, and when 
Kovaloff, the member of the Municipal Commit¬ 
tee, said to him, as was his custom while being 
shaved, “ Your hands always smell, Ivan Jakov¬ 
levitch! ” the latter answered, “What do they 
smell of?” “I don’t know, my friend, but 
they smell very strong.” Ivan Jakovlevitch 
after taking a pinch of snuff would then, by way 
of reprisals, set to work to soap him on the cheek, 
the upper lip, behind the ears, on the chin, and 
everywhere. 

This worthy man now stood on the Isaac 
Bridge. At first he looked round him, then he 
leant on the railings of the bridge, as though he 
wished to look down and see how many fish were 
swimming past, and secretly threw the nose, 
wrapped in a little piece of cloth 1 , into the 
water. He felt as though a ton weight had been 
lifted off him, and laughed cheerfully. Instead, 
however, of going to shave any officials, he 
turned his steps to a building, the sign-board of 
which bore the legend “ Teas served here,” in 


72 THE NOSE 

order to have a glass of punch, when suddenly 
he perceived at the other end of the bridge a 
police inspector of imposing exterior, with long 
whiskers, three-cornered hat, and sword hanging 
at his side. He nearly fainted; but the police 
inspector beckoned to him with his hand and 
said, “Come here, my dear sir.” 

Ivan Jakovlevitch, knowing how a gentleman 
should behave, took his hat off quickly, went 
towards the police inspector and said, “ I hope 
you are in the best of health.” 

“Never mind my health. Tell me, my 
friend, why you were standing on the bridge.” 

‘ ‘ By heaven, gracious sir, I was on the way 
to my customers, and only looked down to see if 
the river was flowing quickly.” 

“ That is a lie! You won’t get out of it like 
that. Confess the truth.” 

'“I am willing to shave Your Grace two or 
even three times a week gratis,” answered Ivan 
Jakovlevitch. ; 

“No, my friend, don’t put yourself out! 
Three barbers are busy with me already, and 
reckon it a high honour that I let them show me 
their skill. Now then, out with it! What were 
you doing there? ” 

Ivan Jakovlevitch grew pale. But here the 
strange episode vanishes in mist, and what 
further happened is not known. 



THE NOSE 


73 


II 

Kovaloff, the member of the Municipal Com¬ 
mittee, awoke fairly early that morning, and 
made a droning noise—“ Brr! Brr! ”—through 
his lips, as he always did, though he could not 
say why. He stretched himself, and told his 
valet to give him a little mirror which was on the 
table. He wished to look at the heat-boil which 
had appeared on his nose the previous evening; 
but to his great astonishment, he saw that instead 
of his nose he had a perfectly smooth vacancy in 
his face. Thoroughly alarmed, he ordered some 
water to be brought, and rubbed his eyes with a 
towel. Sure enough, he had no longer a nose! 
Then he sprang out of bed, and shook himself 
violently! No, no nose any more! He dressed 
himself and went at once to the police superin¬ 
tendent. 

But before proceeding further, we must cer¬ 
tainly give the reader some information about 
Kovaloff, so that he may know what sort of a man 
this member of the Municipal Committee really 
was. These committee-men, who obtain that 
title by means of certificates of learning, must 
not be compared with the committee-men ap¬ 
pointed for the Caucasus district, who are of 
quite a different kind. The learned committee- 


74 THE NOSE 

man—but Russia is such a wonderful country 
that when one committee-man is spoken of all 
the others from Riga to Kamschatka refer it to 
themselves. The same is also true of all other 
titled officials. Kovaloff had been a Caucasian 
committee-man two years previously, and could 
not forget that he had occupied that position; 
but in order to enhance his own importance, 
he never called himself “ committee-man ” but 
“Major.” 

“Listen, my dear,” he used to say when he 
met an old woman in the street who sold shirt- 
fronts ; “ go to my house in Sadovaia Street and 
ask ‘Does Major Kovaloff live here?’ Any 
child can tell you where it is.” 

Accordingly we will call him for the future 
Major Kovaloff. It was his custom to take a daily 
walk on the Neffsky Avenue. The collar of his 
shirt was always remarkably clean and stiff. He 
wore the same style of whiskers as those that are 
worn by governors of districts, architects,' and 
regimental doctors; in short, all those who have 
full red cheeks and play a good game of whist. 
These whiskers grow straight across the cheek 
towards the nose. 

Major Kovaloff wore a number of seals, on 
some of which were engraved armorial bearings, 
and others the names of the days of the week. 
He had come to St Petersburg with the view of 
obtaining some position corresponding to his 


THE NOSE 75 

rank, if possible that of vice-governor of a 
province; but he was prepared to be content with 
that of a bailiff in some department or other. 
He was, moreover, not disinclined to marry, but 
only such a lady who could bring with her a 
dowry of two hundred thousand roubles. Ac¬ 
cordingly, the reader can judge for himself what 
his sensations were when he found in his face, 
instead of a fairly symmetrical nose, a broad, 
flat vacancy. 

To increase his misfortune, not a single 
droshky was to be seen in the street, and so he 
was obliged to proceed on foot. He wrapped 
himself up in his cloak, and held his handker¬ 
chief to his face as though his nose bled. “ But 
perhaps it is all only my imagination; it is impos¬ 
sible that a nose should drop off in such a 
silly way,” he thought, and stepped into a 
confectioner’s shop in order to look into the 
mirror. 

Fortunately no customer was in the shop ; only 
small shop-boys were cleaning it out, and putting 
chairs and tables straight. Others with sleepy 
faces were carrying fresh cakes on trays, and 
yesterday’s newspapers stained with coffee were 
still lying about. “ Thank God no one is 
here! ” he said to himself. “Now I can look 
at myself leisurely.” 

He stepped gingerly up to a mirror and looked. 

“ What an infernal face! ” he exclaimed, and 


76 THE NOSE 

spat with disgust. ‘ ‘ If there were only some¬ 
thing there instead of the nose, but there is 
absolutely nothing.” 

He bit his lips with vexation, left the confec¬ 
tioner’s, and resolved, quite contrary to his habit, 
neither to look nor smile at anyone on the street. 
Suddenly he halted as if rooted to the spot before 
a door, where something extraordinary hap¬ 
pened. A carriage drew up at the entrance; the 
carriage door was opened, and a gentleman in 
uniform came out and hurried up the steps. 
How great was Kovaloff’s terror and astonish¬ 
ment when he saw that it was his own nose! 

At this extraordinary sight, everything seemed 
to turn round with him. He felt as though he 
could hardly keep upright on his legs; but, 
though trembling all over as though with fever, 
he resolved to wait till the nose should return 
to the carriage. After about two minutes the 
nose actually came out again. It wore a gold- 
embroidered uniform with a stiff, high collar, 
trousers of chamois leather, and a sword hung 
at its side. The hat, adorned with a plume, 
showed that it held the rank of a state-councillor. 
It was obvious that it was paying “ duty-calls.” 
It looked round on both sides, called to the 
coachman “ Drive on,” and got into the car¬ 
riage, which drove away. 

Poor Kovaloff nearly lost his reason. He did 
not know what to think of this extraordinary 


THE NOSE 77. 

procedure. And indeed how was it possible 
that the nose, which only yesterday he had on 
his face, and which could neither walk nor drive, 
should wear a uniform. He ran after the car¬ 
riage, which fortunately had stopped a short way 
off before the Grand Bazar of Moscow. He 
hurried towards it and pressed through a crowd 
of beggar-women with their faces bound up, 
leaving only two openings for the eyes, over 
whom he had formerly so often made merry. 

There were only a few people in front of the 
Bazar. Kovaloff was so agitated that he could 
decide on nothing, and looked for the nose 
everywhere. At last he saw it standing before 
a shop. It seemed half.buried in its stiff collar, 
and was attentively inspecting the wares dis¬ 
played. 

“How can I get at it?” thought Kovaloff. 
“Everything—the uniform, the hat, and so on 
—show that it is a state-councillor. How the 
deuce has that happened?” 

He began to cough discreetly near it, but the 
nose paid him not the least attention. 

“Honourable sir,” said Kovaloff at last, 
plucking up courage, “honourable sir.” 

“ What do you want?” asked the nose, and 
turned round. 

“ It seems to me strange, most respected sir'— 
you should know where you belong—and I find 
you all of a sudden—where? Judge yourself.” 


78 


THE NOSE 

'“Pardon me, I do not understand what you 
are talking about. Explain yourself more dis¬ 
tinctly.” 

“How shall I make my meaning plainer to 
him?” Then plucking up fresh courage, he 
continued, “Naturally—besides I am a Major. 
You must admit it is not befitting that I should 
go about without a nose. An old apple-woman 
on the Ascension Bridge may carry on her busi¬ 
ness without one, but since I am on the look out 
for a post; besides in many houses I am ac¬ 
quainted with ladies of high position—Madame 
Tchektyriev, wife of a state-councillor, and 
many others. So you see—I do not know, 

honourable sir, what you-” (here the Major 

shrugged his shoulders). “Pardon me; if one 
regards the matter from the point of view of 
duty and honour—you will yourself under¬ 
stand-” 

“I understand nothing,” answered the nose. 

‘ ‘ I repeat, please explain yourself more ; dis¬ 
tinctly.” 

“Honourable sir,” said Kovaloff with 
dignity, “ I do not know how I am to understand 
your words. It seems to me the matter is as 
clear as possible. Or do you wish—but you are 
after all my own nose! ” 

The nose looked at the Major and wrinkled its 
forehead. “There you are wrong, respected 
sir; I am myself. Besides, there can be no close 




THE NOSE 79 

relations between us. To judge by the buttons 
of your uniform, you must be in quite a different 
department to mine.” So saying, the nose 
turned away. 

Kovaloff was completely puzzled; he did not 
know what to do, and still less what to think. 
At this moment he heard the pleasant rustling of 
a lady’s dress, and there approached an elderly 
lady wearing a quantity of lace, and by her side 
her graceful daughter in a white dress which set 
off her slender figure to advantage, and wearing 
a light straw hat. Behind the ladies marched a 
tall lackey with long whiskers. 

Kovaloff advanced a few steps, adjusted his 
cambric collar, arranged his seals which hung 
by a little gold chain, and with smiling face fixed 
his eyes on the graceful lady, who bowed lightly 
like a spring flower, and raised to her brow 
her little white hand with transparent fingers. 
He smiled still more when he spied under the 
brim of her hat her little round chin, and part 
of her cheek faintly tinted with rose-colour. 
But suddenly he sprang back as though he had 
been scorched. He remembered that he had 
nothing but an absolute blank in place of a nose, 
and tears started to his eyes. He turned round 
in order to tell the gentleman in uniform that he 
was only a state-councillor in appearance, but 
really a scoundrel and a rascal, and nothing else 
but his own nose; but the nose was no longer 


80 


THE NOSE 

there. He had had time to go, doubtless in 
order to continue his visits. 

His disappearance plunged Kovaloff into 
despair. He went back and stood for a moment 
under a colonnade, looking round him on all 
sides in hope of perceiving the nose somewhere. 
He remembered very well that it wore a hat with 
a plume in it and a gold-embroidered uniform; 
but he had not noticed the shape of the cloak, 
nor the colour of the carriages and the horses, 
nor even whether a lackey stood behind it, and, 
if so, what sort of livery he wore. Moreover, 
so many carriages were passing that it would 
have been difficult to recognise one, and even if 
he had done so, there would have been no means 
of stopping it. 

The day was fine and sunny. An immense 
crowd was passing to and fro in the Neffsky 
Avenue; a variegated stream of ladies flowed 
along the pavement. There was his acquain¬ 
tance, the Privy Councillor, whom he was accus¬ 
tomed to style “General,” especially when 
strangers were present. There was Iarygin, his 
intimate friend who always lost in the evenings 
at whist; and there another Major, who had 
obtained the rank of committee-man in the 
Caucasus, beckoned to him. 

“ Go to the deuce! ” said Kovaloff sotto voce. 
“ Hi! coachman, drive me straight to the super¬ 
intendent of police.” So saying, he got into a 


THE NOSE 81 

droshky and continued to shout all the time to 
the coachman “ Drive hard! ” 

“Is the police superintendent at home?” he 
asked on entering the front hall. 

“No, sir,” answered the porter, “ he has just 
gone out.” 

“ Ah, just as I thought! ” 

“Yes,” continued the porter, “he has only 
just gone out; if you had been a moment 
earlier you would perhaps have caught 
him.” 

Kovaloff, still holding his handkerchief to His 
face, re-entered the droshky and cried in a 
despairing voice “Drive on!” 

“Where?” asked the coachman. 

“ Straight on! ” 

“But how? There are cross-roads here. 
Shall I go to the right or the left? ” 

This question made Kovaloff reflect. In his 
situation it was necessary to have recourse to the 
police; not because the affair had anything to do 
with them directly but because they acted more 
promptly than other authorities. As for de¬ 
manding any explanation from the department 
to which the nose claimed to belong, it would, 
he felt, be useless, for the answers of that 
gentleman showed that he regarded nothing as 
sacred, and he might just as likely have lied in 
this matter as in saying that he had never seen 
Kovaloff, 

f 


82 


THE NOSE 

But just as he was about to order the coach¬ 
man to drive to the police-station, the idea 
occurred to him that this rascally scoundrel who, 
at their first meeting, had behaved so disloyally 
towards him, might, profiting by the delay, quit 
the city secretly; and then all his searching would 
be in' vain, or might last over a whole month. 
Finally, as though visited with a heavenly in¬ 
spiration, he resolved to go directly to an adver¬ 
tisement office, and to advertise the loss of his 
nose, giving all its distinctive characteristics in 
detail, so that anyone who found it might bring 
it at once to him, or at any rate inform him 
where it lived. Having decided on this course, 
he ordered the coachman to drive to the adver¬ 
tisement office, and all the way he continued to 
punch him in the back—“Quick, scoundrel! 
quick! ” 

“ Yes, sir! ” answered the coachman, lashing 
his shaggy horse with the reins. 

At last they arrived, and Kovaloff, out of 
breath, rushed into a little room where a grey¬ 
haired official, in an old coat and with spectacles 
on his nose, sat at a table holding his pen 
between his teeth, counting a heap of copper 
coins. 

“Who takes in the advertisements here?” 
exclaimed Kovaloff. 

“At your service, sir,” answered the grey¬ 
haired functionary, looking up and then fasten- 


THE NOSE 83 

ing his eyes again on the heap of coins before 
him. 

‘ ‘ I wish to place an advertisement in your 
paper-” 

“Have the kindness to wait a minute,” 
answered the official, putting down figures on 
paper with one hand, and with the other moving 
two balls on his calculating-frame. 

A lackey, whose silver-laced coat showed that 
he served in one of the houses of the nobility, 
was standing by the table with a note in his hand, 
and speaking in a lively tone, by way of showing 
himself sociable. “ Would you believe it, sir, 
this little dog is really not worth twenty-four 
kopecks, and for my own part I would not give a 
farthing for it; but the countess is quite gone 
upon it, and offers a hundred roubles’ reward to 
anyone who finds it. To tell you the truth, the 
tastes of these people are very different from 
ours; they don’t mind giving five hundred or a 
thousand roubles for a poodle or a pointer, 
provided it be a good one.” 

The official listened with a serious air while 
counting the number of letters contained in the 
note. At either side of the table stood a number 
of housekeepers, clerks and porters, carrying 
notes. The writer of one wished to sell a 
barouche, which had been brought from Paris 
in 1814 and had been very little used; others 
wasted to dispose of a strong droshky which 



84 


THE NOSE 

wanted one spring, a spirited horse seventeen 
years old, and so on. The room where these 
people were collected was very small, and the air 
was very close; but Kovaloff was not affected by 
it, for he had covered his face with a handker¬ 
chief, and because his nose itself was heaven 
knew where. 

“ Sir, allow me to ask you—I am in a great 
hurry,” he said at last impatiently. 

“ In a moment! In a moment! Two roubles, 
twenty-four kopecks—one minute! One rouble, 
sixty-four kopecks!” said the grey-haired 
official, throwing their notes back to the house¬ 
keepers and porters. “ What do you wish? ” he 
said, turning to Kovaloff. 

“ I wish—” answered the latter, “ I have just 
been swindled and cheated, and I cannot get hold 
of the perpetrator. I only want you to insert 
an advertisement to say that whoever brings this 
scoundrel to me will be well rewarded.” 

“ What is your name, please? ” 

“ Why do you want my name? I have many 
lady friends—Madame Tchektyriev, wife of a 
state-councillor, Madame Podtotchina, wife of a 
Colonel. Heaven forbid that they should get to 
hear of it. You can simply write ‘ committee¬ 
man,’ or, better, ‘ Major.’ ” 

“And the man who has run away is your 
serf.” 

“ Serf! If he waSj it would not be such a 


THE NOSE 85 

great swindle! It is the nose which has 
absconded.” 

“H’m! What a strange name. And this 
Mr Nose has stolen from you a considerable 
sum? ” 

“Mr Nose! Ah, you don’t understand me! 
It is my own nose which has gone, I don’t know 
where. The devil has played a trick on me.” 

“How has it disappeared? I don’t under¬ 
stand.” 

“ I can’t tell you how, but the important point 
is that now it walks about the city itself a state- 
councillor. That is why I want you to advertise 
that whoever gets hold of it should bring it as 
soon as possible to me. Consider; how can I 
live without such a prominent part of my body? 
It is not as if it were merely a little toe; I would 
only have to put my foot in my boot and no one 
would notice its absence. Every Thursday I 
call on the wife of M. Tchektyriev, the state- 
councillor; Madame Podtotchina, a Colonel’s 
wife who has a very pretty daughter, is one of 
my acquaintances; and what am I to do now? 
I cannot appear before them like this.” 

The official compressed his lips and reflected. 
‘ ‘ No, I cannot insert an advertisement like 
that,” he said after a long pause. 

“What! Why not?” 

“Because it might compromise the paper. 
Suppose everyone could advertise that his nose 


86 


THE NOSE 

was lost. People already say that all sorts of 
nonsense and lies are inserted.” 

‘ ‘ But this is not nonsense! There is nothing 
of that sort in my case.” 

“You think so? Listen a minute. Last 
week there was a case very like it. An official 
came, just as you have done, bringing an adver¬ 
tisement for the insertion of which he paid two 
roubles, sixty-three kopecks; and this advertise¬ 
ment simply announced the loss of a black-haired 
poodle. There did not seem to be anything out 
of the way in it, but it was really a satire; by the 
poodle was meant the cashier of some establish¬ 
ment or other.” 

‘ * But I am not talking of a poodle, but my 
own nose; i.e. almost myself.” 

“No, I cannot insert your advertisement.” 

“ But my nose really has disappeared ! ” 

“ That is a matter for a doctor. There are 
said to be people who can provide you with any 
kind of nose you like. But I see that you are a 
witty man, and like to have your little joke.” 

“ But I swear to you on my word of honour. 
Look at my face yourself.” 

“Why put yourself out?” continued the 
official, taking a pinch of snuff. “ All the same, 
if you don’t mind,” he added with a touch of 
curiosity, “ I should like to have a look at it.” 

The committee-man removed the handkerchief 
from before his face. 


THE NOSE 87 

“ It certainly does look odd,” said the official. 
“ It is perfectly flat like a freshly fried pancake. 
It is hardly credible.” 

“Very well. Are you going to hesitate 
any more? You see it is impossible to refuse 
to advertise my loss. I shall be particularly 
obliged to you, and I shall be glad that this 
incident has procured me the pleasure of making 
your acquaintance.” The Major, we see, did 
not even shrink from a slight humiliation. 

“ It certainly is not difficult to advertise it,” 
replied the official; ‘ * but I don’t see what good 
it would do you. However, if you lay so much 
stress on it, you should apply to someone who 
has a skilful pen, so that he may describe it as a 
curious, natural freak, and publish the article in 
the Northern Bee ” (here he took another pinch) 
“ for the benefit of youthful readers ” (he wiped 
his nose), “ or simply as a matter worthy of 
arousing public curiosity.” 

The committee-man felt completely discour¬ 
aged. He let his eyes fall absent-mindedly on 
a daily paper in which theatrical performances 
were advertised. Reading there the name of 
an actress whom he knew to be pretty, he invol¬ 
untarily smiled, and his hand sought his pocket 
to see if he had a blue ticket—for in Kovaloff’s 
opinion superior officers like himself should not 
take a lesser-priced seat; but the thought of his 
lost nose suddenly spoilt everything. 


88 


THE NOSE 

The official himself seemed touched at his 
difficult position. Desiring to console him, he 
tried to express his sympathy by a few polite 
words. “I much regret,” he said, “your 
extraordinary mishap. Will you not try a 
pinch of snuff? It clears the head, banishes 
depression, and is a good preventive against 
hasmorroids.” 

So saying, he reached his snuff-box out to 
Kovaloff, skilfully concealing at the same time 
the cover, which was adorned with the portrait of 
some lady or other. 

This act, quite innocent in itself, exasperated 
Kovaloff. ‘ ‘ I don’t understand what you find to 
joke about in the matter,” he exclaimed angrily. 
•“ Don’t you see that I lack precisely the essen¬ 
tial feature for taking snuff? The devil take 
your snuff-box. I don’t want to look at snuff 
now, not even the best, certainly not your vile 
stuff!” 

So saying, he left the advertisement office in 
a state of profound irritation, and went to the 
commissary of police. He arrived just as this 
dignitary was reclining on his couch, and saying 
to himself with a sigh of satisfaction, ‘ ‘ Yes, I 
shall make a nice little sum out of that.” 

It might be expected, therefore, that the 
committee-man’s visit would be quite inoppor¬ 
tune. 

This police commissary was a great patron of 


THE NOSE 89 

all the arts and industries; but what he liked 
above everything else was a cheque. “ It is a 
thing,” he used to say, “ to which it is not easy 
to find an equivalent; it requires no food, it does 
not take up much room, it stays in one’s pocket, 
and if it falls, it is not broken.” 

The commissary accorded Kovaloff a fairly 
frigid reception, saying that the afternoon was 
not the best time to come with a case, that nature 
required one to rest a little after eating (this 
showed the committee-man that the commissary 
was acquainted with the aphorisms of the ancient 
sages), and that respectable people did not have 
their noses stolen. 

The last allusion was too direct. We must 
remember that Kovaloff was a very sensitive 
man. He did not mind anything said against 
him as an individual, but he could not endure 
any reflection on his rank or social position. He 
even believed that in comedies one might allow 
attacks on junior officers, but never on their 
seniors. 

The commissary’s reception of him hurt his 
feelings so much that he raised his head proudly, 
and said with dignity, “ After such insulting 
expressions on your part, I have nothing more 
to say.” And he left the place. 

He reached his house quite wearied out. It 
was already growing dark. After all his fruit¬ 
less search, his room seemed to him melancholy 


90 


THE NOSE 

and even ugly. In the vestibule he saw his 
valet Ivan stretched on the leather couch and 
amusing himself by spitting at the ceiling, which 
he did very cleverly, hitting every time the same 
spot. His servant's equanimity enraged him; 
he struck him on the forehead with his hat, and 
said, ‘ ‘ You good-for-nothing, you are always 
playing the fool! ” 

Ivan rose quickly and hastened to take off his 
master’s cloak. 

Once in his room, the Major, tired and de¬ 
pressed, threw himself in an armchair and, after 
sighing a while, began to soliloquise: 

“ In heaven’s name, why should such a mis¬ 
fortune befall me? If I had lost an arm or a 
leg, it would be less insupportable; but a man 
without a nose! Devil take it!—what is he good 
for? He is only fit to be thrown out of the 
window. If it had been taken from me in war or 
in a duel, or if I had lost it by my own fault! 
But it has disappeared inexplicably. But no! it 
is impossible,” he continued after reflecting a few 
moments, “it is incredible that a nose can dis¬ 
appear like that—quite incredible. I must be 
dreaming, or suffering from some hallucination; 
perhaps I swallowed, by mistake instead of 
water, the brandy with which I rub my chin after 
being shaved. That fool of an Ivan must have 
forgotten to take it away, and I must have 
swallowed it.” 


THE NOSE 91 

In order to find out whether he were really 
drunk, the Major pinched himself so hard that 
he unvoluntarily uttered a cry. The pain con¬ 
vinced him that he was quite wide awake. He 
walked slowly to the looking-glass and at first 
closed his eyes, hoping to see his nose suddenly 
in its proper place; but on opening them, he 
started back. “What a hideous sight!” he 
exclaimed. 

It was really incomprehensible. One might 
easily lose a button, a silver spoon, a watch, or 
something similar; but a loss like this, and in 
one’s own dwelling! 

After considering all the circumstances, Major 
Kovaloff felt inclined to suppose that the cause 
of all his trouble should be laid at the door of 
Madame Podtotchina, the Colonel’s wife, who 
wished him to marry her daughter. He himself 
paid her court readily, but always avoided 
coming to the point. And when the lady one 
day told him point-blank that she wished him 
to marry her daughter, he gently drew back, 
declaring that he was still too young, and that he 
had to serve five years more before he would be 
forty-two. This must be the reason why the 
lady, in revenge, had resolved to bring him into 
disgrace, and had hired two sorceresses for that 
object. One thing was certain—his nose had 
not been cut off; no one had entered his room, 
and as for Ivan Jakovlevitch—he had been 


92 


THE NOSE 

shaved by him on Wednesday, and during that 
day and the whole of Thursday his nose had 
been there, as he knew and well remembered. 
Moreover, if his nose had been cut off he 
would naturally have felt pain, and doubtless 
the wound would not have healed so quickly, 
nor would the surface have been as flat as a 
pancake. 

All kinds of plans passed through his head: 
should he bring a legal action against the wife 
of a superior officer, or should he go to her and 
charge her openly with her treachery? 

His reflections were interrupted by a sudden 
light, which shone through all the chinks of the 
door, showing that Ivan had lit the wax-candles 
in the vestibule. Soon Ivan himself came in 
with the lights. Kovaloff quickly seized a hand¬ 
kerchief and covered the place where his nose 
had been the evening before, so that his block¬ 
head of a servant might not gape with his mouth 
wide open when he saw his master’s extra¬ 
ordinary appearance. 

Scarcely had Ivan returned to the vestibule 
than a stranger’s voice was heard there. 

“Does Major Kovaloff live here?” it asked. 

“Come in!” said the Major, rising rapidly 
and opening the door. 

He saw a police official of pleasant appearance, 
with grey whiskers and fairly full cheeks—the 
same who at the commencement of this story was 


THE NOSE 93 

standing at the end of the Isaac Bridge. You 
have lost your nose? ” he asked. 

"Exactly 60 .” 

" It has just been found.” 

"What—do you say?” stammered Major 
Kovaloff. 

Joy had suddenly paralysed his tongue. He 
stared at the police commissary on whose cheek3 
and full lips fell the flickering light of the candle. 

“ How was it? ” he asked at last. 

“By a very singular chance. It has been 
arrested just as it was getting into a carriage for 
Riga. Its passport had been made out some 
time ago in the name of an official; and what is 
still more strange, I myself took it at first for a 
gentleman. Fortunately I had my glasses with 
me, and then I saw at once that it was a nose. 
I am shortsighted, you know, and as you stand 
before me I cannot distinguish your nose, your 
beard, or anything else. My mother-in-law can 
hardly see at all.” 

Kovaloff was beside himself with excitement. 
“ Where is it? Where? I will hasten there at 
once.” 

" Don’t put yourself out. Knowing that you 
need it, I have brought it with me. Another 
singular thing is that the principal culprit in the 
matter is a scoundrel of a barber living in the 
Ascension Avenue, who is now safely locked up. 
I had long suspected him of drunkenness and 


94 


THE NOSE 

theft; only the day before yesterday he stole 
some buttons in a shop. Your nose is quite 
uninjured.” So saying, the police commissary 
put his hand in his pocket and brought out the 
nose wrapped up in paper. 

“Yes, yes, that is it! ” exclaimed Kovaloff. 

Will you not stay and drink a cup of tea with 
me? ” 

“ I should like to very much, but I cannot. 
I must go at once to the House of Correction. 
The cost of living is very high nowadays. My 
mother-in-law lives with me, and there are 
several children; the eldest is very hopeful and 
intelligent, but I have no means for their 
education.” 

After the commissary’s departure, Kovaloff 
remained for some time plunged in a kind of 
vague reverie, and did not recover full con¬ 
sciousness for several moments, so great was the 
effect of this unexpected good news. He placed 
the recovered nose carefully in the palm of his 
hand, and examined it again with the greatest 
attention. 

‘ ‘ Yes, this is it! ” he said to himself. “ Here 
is the heat-boil on the left side, which came out 
yesterday.” And he nearly laughed aloud with 
delight. 

But nothing is permanent in this world. Joy 
in the second moment of its arrival is already 
less keen than in the firgt, is still fainter in the 


THE NOSE 95 

third, and finishes by coalescing with our normal 
mental state, just as the circles which the fall of 
a pebble forms on the surface of water, gradually 
die away. Kovaloff began to meditate, and saw 
that his difficulties were not yet over; his nose 
had been recovered, but it had to be joined on 
again in its proper place. 

And suppose it could not? As he put this 
question to himself, Kovaloff grew pale. With 
a feeling of indescribable dread, he rushed 
towards his dressing-table, and stood before the 
mirror in order that he might not place his nose 
crookedly. His hands trembled. 

Very carefully he placed it where it had been 
before. Horror! It did not remain there. 
He held it to his mouth and warmed it a little 
with his breath, and then placed it there again; 
but it would not hold. 

“Hold on, you stupid!” he said. 

But the nose seemed to be made of wood, and 
fell back on the table with a strange noise, as 
though it had been a cork. The Major’s face 
began to twitch feverishly. “ Is it possible that 
it won’t stick?” he asked himself, full of alarm. 
But however often he tried, all his efforts were 
in vain. 

He called Ivan, and sent him to fetch the 
doctor who occupied the finest fiat in the 
mansion. This doctor was a man of imposing 
appearance, who had magnificent black whiskers 


96 


THE NOSE 

and a healthy wife. He ate fresh apples every 
morning, and cleaned his teeth with extreme 
care, using five different tooth-brushes for three- 
quarters of an hour daily. 

The doctor came immediately. After having 
asked the Major when this misfortune had hap¬ 
pened, he raised his chin and gave him a fillip 
with his finger just where the nose had been, in 
such a way that the Major suddenly threw back 
his head and struck the wall with it. The doctor 
said that did not matter; then, making him turn 
his face to the right, he felt the vacant place and 
said “ H’m! ” then he made him turn it to the 
left and did the same; finally he again gave him 
a fillip with his finger, so that the Major started 
like a horse whose teeth are being examined. 
After this experiment, the doctor shook his head 
and said, “No, it cannot be done. Rather 
remain as you are, lest something worse happen. 
Certainly one could replace it at once, but I 
assure you the remedy would be worse than the 
disease. 5 ’ 

“ All very fine, but how am I to go on with¬ 
out a nose?” answered Kovaloff. “There is 
nothing worse than that. How can I show 
myself with such a villainous appearance? I go 
into good society, and this evening I am invited 
to two parties. I know several ladies, Madame 
Tchektyriev, the wife of a state-councillor, 
Madame Rodtotchina—although after what she 


THE NOSE 97. 

has done, I don’t want to have anything to do 
with her except through the agency of the police. 
I beg you,” continued Kovaloff in a supplicating 
tone, “ find some way or other of replacing it; 
even if it is not quite firm, as long as it holds at 
all; I can keep it in place sometimes with my 
hand, whenever there is any risk. Besides, I 
do not even dance, so that it is not likely to be 
injured by any sudden movement. As to your 
fee, be in no anxiety about that; I can well 
afford it.” 

“ Believe me,” answered the doctor in a voice 
which was neither too high nor too low, but soft 
and almost magnetic, “I do not treat patients 
from love of gain. That would be contrary to 
my principles and to my art. It is true that I 
accept fees, but that is only not to hurt my 
patients’ feelings by refusing them. I could 
certainly replace your nose, but I assure you on 
my word of honour, it would only make matters 
worse. Rather let Nature do her own work. 
Wash the place often with cold water, and I 
assure you that even without a nose, you will be 
just as well as if you had one. As to the nose 
itself, I advise you to have it preserved in a 
bottle of spirits, or, still better, of warm vinegar 
mixed with two spoonfuls of brandy, and then 
you can sell it at a good price. I would be 
willing to take it myself, provided you do not 
ask too much.” 


a 


98 


THE NOSE 

“No, no, I shall not sell it at any price. I 
would rather it were lost again.” 

“Excuse me,” said the doctor, taking his 
leave. ‘ ‘ I hoped to be useful to you, but I can 
do nothing more; you are at any rate convinced 
of nay good-will.” So saying, the doctor left 
the room with a dignified air. 

Kovaloff did not even notice his departure. 
Absorbed in a profound reverie, he only saw the 
edge of his snow-white cuffs emerging from the 
sleeves of his black coat. 

The next day he resolved, before bringing a 
formal action, to write to the Colonel’s wife and 
see whether she would not return to him, without 
further dispute, that of which she had deprived 
him. 

The letter ran as follows : 

“To Madame Alexandra Podtotchina, 

“ I hardly understand your method of action. 
Be sure that by adopting such a course you will 
gain nothing, and will certainly not succeed in 
making me marry your daughter. Believe me, 
the story of my nose has become well known; it 
is you and no one else who have taken the princi¬ 
pal part in it. Its unexpected separation from 
the place which it occupied, its flight and its 
appearances sometimes in the disguise of an 
official, sometimes in proper person, are nothing 
but the consequence of unholy spells employed 


THE NOSE 99 

by you or by persons who, like you, are addicted 
to such honourable pursuits. On my part, I wish 
to inform you, that if the above-mentioned nose 
is not restored to-day to its proper place, I shall 
be obliged to have recourse to legal procedure. 

“For the rest, with all respect, I have the 
honour to be your humble servant, 

“Platon Kovaloff.” 

The reply was not long in coming, and was as 
follows: 

“Major Platon Kovaloff,— 

“Your letter has profoundly astonished me. 
I must confess that I had not expected such 
unjust reproaches on your part. I assure you 
that the official of whom you speak has not been 
at my house, either disguised or in his proper 
person. It is true that Philippe Ivanovitch 
Potantchikoff has paid visits at my house, and 
though he has actually asked for my daughter’s 
hand, and was a man of good breeding, respect¬ 
able and intelligent, I never gave him any hope. 

“ Again, you say something about a nose. 
If you intend to imply by that that I wished to 
snub you, i.e. to meet you with a refusal, I am 
very astonished because, as you well know, I was 
quite of the opposite mind. If after this you 
wish to ask for my daughter’s hand, I should be 
glad to gratify you, for such has also been the 
object of my most fervent desire A in the hope of 


100 THE NOSE 

the accomplishment of which, I remain, yours 
most sincerely, 

“Alexandra Podtotchina.” 

“No,” said Kovaloff, after having reperused 
the letter, “she is certainly not guilty. It is 
impossible. Such a letter could not be written 
by a criminal.” The committee-man was ex¬ 
perienced in such matters, for he had been often 
officially deputed to conduct criminal investiga¬ 
tions while in the Caucasus. “But then how 
and by what trick of fate has the thing hap¬ 
pened?” he said to himself with a gesture of 
discouragement. “The devil must be at the 
bottom of it.” 

Meanwhile the rumour of this extraordinary 
event had spread all over the city, and, as is 
generally the case, not without numerous addi¬ 
tions. At that period there was a general dis¬ 
position to believe in the miraculous; the public 
had recently been impressed by experiments in 
magnetism. The story of the floating chairs in 
Koniouchennaia Street was still quite recent, 
and there was nothing astonishing in hearing 
soon afterwards that Major Kovaloff’s nose was 
to be seen walking every day at three o’clock 
on the Neff sky Avenue. The crowd of curious 
spectators which gathered there daily was enor¬ 
mous. On one occasion someone spread a report 
that the nose was in Junker’s stores and imme- 


THE NOSE 101 

diately the place was besieged by such a crowd 
that the police had to interfere and establish 
order. A certain speculator with a grave, whis¬ 
kered face, who sold cakes at a theatre door, 
had some strong wooden benches made which 
he placed before the window of the stores, and 
obligingly invited the public to stand on them 
and look in, at the modest charge of twenty-four 
kopecks. A veteran colonel, leaving his house 
earlier than usual expressly for the purpose, had 
the greatest difficulty in elbowing his way through 
the crowd, but to his great indignation he saw 
nothing in the store window but an ordinary 
flannel waistcoat and a coloured lithograph 
representing a young girl darning a stocking, 
while an elegant youth in a waistcoat with large 
lappels watched her from behind a tree. The 
picture had hung in the same place for more 
than ten years. The colonel went off, growling 
savagely to himself, “How can the fools let 
themselves be excited by such idiotic stories? ” 
Then another rumour got abroad, to the effect 
that the nose of Major Kovaloff was in the habit 
of walking not on the Neffsky Avenue but in the 
Tauris Gardens. Some students of the Academy 
of Surgery went there on purpose to see it. A 
high-born lady wrote to the keeper of the gardens 
asking him to show her children this rare phen¬ 
omenon, and to give them some suitable instruc¬ 
tion on the occasion. 


102 


THE NOSE 

All these incidents were eagerly collected by 
the town wits, who just then were very short 
of anecdotes adapted to amuse ladies. On the 
other hand, the minority of solid, sober people 
were very much displeased. One gentleman 
asserted with great indignation that he could not 
understand how in our enlightened age such 
absurdities could spread abroad, and he was 
astonished that the Government did not direct 
their attention to the matter. This gentleman 
evidently belonged to the category of those 
people who wish the Government to interfere in 
everything, even in their daily quarrels with their 
wives. 

But here the course of events is again obscured 
by a veil. 


Ill 

Strange events happen in this world, events 
which are sometimes entirely improbable. . The 
same nose which had masqueraded as a state- 
councillor, and caused so much sensation in the 
town, was found one morning in its proper place, 
i.e. between the cheeks of Major Kovaloff, as if 
nothing had happened. 

This occurred on 7th April. On awaking, the 
Major looked by chance into a mirror and per- 
cieved a nose. He quickly put his hand to it; it 
was there beyond a doubt! 

“Oh!” exclaimed Kovaloff. For sheer joy 


THE NOSE 103 

he was on the point of performing a dance bare¬ 
footed across his room, but the entrance of Ivan 
prevented him. He told him to bring water, 
and after washing himself, he looked again in 
the glass. The nose was there! Then he dried 
his face with a towel and looked again. Yes, 
there was no mistake about it! 

“ Look here, Ivan, it seems to me that I have 
a heat-boil on my nose,” he said to his valet. 

And he thought to himself at the same time, 
* ‘ That will be a nice business if Ivan says to 
meNo, sir, not only is there no boil, but your 
nose itself is not there! 5 ” 

But Ivan answered, ‘ ‘ There is nothing, sir; 
I can see no boil on your nose.” 

“Good! Good!” exclaimed the Major, and 
snapped his fingers with delight. 

At this moment the barber, Ivan Jakovlevitch, 
put his head in at the door, but as timidly as a 
cat which has just been beaten for stealing lard. 

“ Tell me first, are your hands clean? ” asked 
Kovaloff when he saw him. 

“ Yes, sir.” 

“You lie.” 

“I swear they are perfectly clean, sir.” 

“Very well; then come here.” 

Kovaloff seated himself. Jakovlevitch tied a 
napkin under his chin, and in the twinkling of an 
eye covered his beard and part of his cheeks with 
a copious creamy lather. 


104 THE NOSE 

“ There it is! ” said the barber to himself, as 
he glanced at the nose. Then he bent his head 
a little and examined it from one side. “Yes, 
it actually is the nose—really, when one 

thinks-” he continued, pursuing his mental 

soliloquy and still looking at it. Then quite 
gently, with infinite precaution, he raised two 
fingers in the air in order to take hold of it by 
the extremity, as he was accustomed to do. 

“ Now then, take care! ” Kovaloff exclaimed. 

Ivan Jakovlevitch let his arm fall and felt more 
embarrassed than he had ever done in his life. 
At last he began to pass the razor very lightly 
over the Major’s chin, and although it was very 
difficult to shave him without using the olfactory 
organ as a point of support, he succeeded, how¬ 
ever, by placing his wrinkled thumb against the 
Major’s lower jaw and cheek, thus overcoming 
all obstacles and bringing his task to a safe 
conclusion. 

When the barber had finished, Kovaloff has¬ 
tened to dress himself, took a droshky, and drove 
straight to the confectioner’s. As he entered it, 
he ordered a cup of chocolate. He then stepped 
straight to the mirror; the nose was there! 

He returned joyfully, and regarded with a 
satirical expression two officers who were in the 
shop, one of whom possessed a nose not much 
larger than a waistcoat button. 

After that he went to the office of the depart- 



THE NOSE 105 

ment where he had applied for the post of vice- 
governor of a province or Government bailiff. 
As he passed through the hall of reception, he 
cast a glance at the mirror; the nose was there! 
Then he went to pay a visit to another committee¬ 
man, a very sarcastic personage, to whom he was 
accustomed to say in answer to his raillery, 
“Yes, I know, you are the funniest fellow in 
St Petersburg.” 

On the way he said to himself, “ If the Major 
does not burst into laughter at the sight of me, 
that is a most certain sign that everything is in 
its accustomed place.” 

But the Major said nothing. “ Very good! ” 
thought Kovaloff. 

As he returned, he met Madame Podtotchina 
with her daughter. He accosted them, and they 
responded very graciously. The conversation 
lasted a long time, during which he took more 
than one pinch of snuff, saying to himself, “ No, 
you haven’t caught me yet, coquettes that you 
are! And as to the daughter, I shan’t marry 
her at all.” 

After that, the Major resumed his walks on 
the Neffsky Avenue and his visits to the theatre 
as if nothing had happened. His nose also 
remained in its place as if it had never quitted it. 
From that time he was always to be seen smiling, 
in a good humour, and paying attentions to pretty 


106 


THE NOSE 


IV 

Such was the occurrence which took place in 
the northern capital of our vast empire. On 
considering the account carefully we see that 
there is a good deal which looks improbable about 
it. Not to speak of the strange disappearance of 
the nose, and its appearance in different places 
under the disguise of a councillor of state, how 
was it that Kovaloff did not understand that one 
cannot decently advertise for a lost nose? I do 
not mean to say that he would have had to pay 
too much for the advertisement—that is a mere 
trifle, and I am not one of those who attach too 
much importance to money; but to advertise in 
6uch a case is not proper nor befitting. 

Another difficulty is—how was the nose found 
in the baked loaf, and how did Ivan Jakovlevitch 
himself—no, I don’t understand it at all! 

But the most incomprehensible thing of all is, 
how authors can choose such subjects for their 
stories. That really surpasses my understand¬ 
ing. In the first place, no advantage results 
from it for the country; and in the second place, 
no harm results either. 

All the same, when one reflects well, there 
really is something in the matter. Whatever 
may be said to the contrary, such cases do occur 
—rarely, it is true, but now and then actually. 


MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 

October 3rd .—A strange occurrence has taken 
place to-day. I got up fairly late, and when 
Mawra brought me my clean boots, I asked her 
how late it was. When I heard it had long 
struck ten, I dressed as quickly as possible. 

To tell the truth, I would rather not have gone 
to the office at all to-day, for I know beforehand 
that our department-chief will look as sour as 
vinegar. For some time past he has been in the 
habit of saying to me, “Look here, my friend; 
there is something wrong with your head. You 
often rush about as though you were possessed. 
Then you make such confused abstracts of the 
documents that the devil himself cannot make 
them out; you write the title without any capital 
letters, and add neither the date nor the docket- 
number. 1 ’ The long-legged scoundrel! He is 
certainly envious of me, because I sit in the 
director’s work-room, and mend His Excel¬ 
lency’s pens. In a word, I should not have gone 
to the office if I had not hoped to meet the 
accountant, and perhaps squeeze a little advance 
out of this skinflint. 


107 


108 MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 

A terrible man, this accountant! As for his 
advancing one’s salary once in a way—you might 
sooner expect the skies to fall. You may beg 
and beseech him, and be on the very verge of 
ruin—this grey devil won’t budge an inch. At 
the same time, his own cook at home, as all the 
world knows, boxes his ears. 

I really don’t see what good one gets by 
serving in our department. There are no plums 
there. In the fiscal and judicial offices it is quite 
different. There some ungainly fellow sits in a 
corner and writes and writes; he has such a 
shabby coat and such an ugly mug that one would 
like to spit on both of them. But you should see 
what a splendid country-house he has rented. 
He would not condescend to accept a gilt porce¬ 
lain cup as a present. “You can give that to 
your family doctor,” he would say. Nothing 
less than a pair of chestnut horses, a fine car¬ 
riage, or a beaver-fur coat worth three hundred 
roubles would be good enough for him. And 
yet he seems so mild and quiet, and asks so 
amiably, * ‘ Please lend me your penknife; I wish 
to mend my pen.” Nevertheless, he knows how 
to scarify a petitioner till he has hardly a whole 
stitch left on his body. 

In our office it must be admitted everything is 
done in a proper and gentlemanly way; there 
is more cleanness and elegance than one will 
ever find in Government offices. The tables 


MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN T09 

are mahogany, and everyone is addressed as 
“sir.” And truly, were it not for this official 
propriety, I should long ago have sent in my 
resignation. 

I put on my old cloak, and took my umbrella, 
as a light rain was falling. No one was to be 
seen on the streets except some women, who had 
flung their skirts over their heads. Here and 
there one saw a cabman or a shopman with his 
umbrella up. Of the higher classes one only 
saw an official here and there. One I saw at the 
street-crossing, and thought to myself, “ Ah! 
my friend, you are not going to the office, but 
after that young lady who walks in front of you. 
You are just like the officers who run after every 
petticoat they see.” 

As I was thus following the train of my 
thoughts, I saw a carriage stop before a shop just 
as I was passing it. I recognised it at once; it 
was our director’s carriage. “He has nothing 
to do in the shop,” I said to myself; “ it must be 
his daughter.” 

I pressed myself close against the wall. A 
lackey opened the carriage door, and, as I had 
expected, she fluttered like a bird out of it. 
How proudly she looked right and left; how she 
drew her eyebrows together, and shot lightnings 
from her eyes—good heavens! I am lost, hope¬ 
lessly lost! 

But why must she come out in such abominable 


110 MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 

weather? And yet they say women are so mad 
on their finery! 

She did not recognise me. I had wrapped 
myself as closely as possible in my cloak. It 
was dirty and old-fashioned, and I would not 
have liked to have been seen by her wearing it. 
Now they wear cloaks with long collars, but 
mine has only a short double collar, and the 
cloth is of inferior quality. 

Her little dog could not get into the shop, and 
remained outside. I know this dog; its name is 
“Meggy.” 

Before I had been standing there a minute, I 
heard a voice call, “ Good day, Meggy! ” 

Who the deuce was that? I looked round 
and saw two ladies hurrying by under an um¬ 
brella—one old, the other fairly young. They 
had already passed me when I heard the same 
voice say again, “For shame, Meggy!” 

What was that? I saw Meggy sniffing at a 
dog which ran behind the ladies. The deuce! 
I thought to myself, “I am not drunk? That 
happens pretty seldom.” 

“ No, Fidel, you are wrong,” I heard Meggy 
say quite distinctly, “I was—bow—wow!—I 
was—bow! wow! wow!—very ill.” 

What an extraordinary dog! I was, to tell 
the truth, quite amazed to hear it talk human 
language. But when I considered the matter 
well, I ceased to be astonished. In fact, such 


MEMOIES OF A MADMAN 111 

things have already happened in the world. It 
is said that in England a fish put its head out of 
water and said a word or two in such an extra¬ 
ordinary language that learned men have been 
puzzling over them for three years, and have not 
succeeded in interpreting them yet. I also read 
in the paper of two cows who entered a shop and 
asked for a pound of tea. 

Meanwhile what Meggy went on to say seemed 
to me still more remarkable. She added, “I 
wrote to you lately, Fidel; perhaps Polkan did 
not bring you the letter.” 

Now I am willing to forfeit a whole month’s 
salary if I ever heard of dogs writing before. 
This has certainly astonished me. For some 
little time past I hear and see things which no 
other man has heard and seen. 

“I will,” I thought, “follow that dog in 
order to get to the bottom of the matter. 
Accordingly, I opened my umbrella and went 
after the two ladies. They went down Bean 
Street, turned through Citizen Street and Car¬ 
penter Street, and finally halted on the Cuckoo 
Bridge before a large house. I know this house; 
it is Sverkoff’s. What a monster he is! What 
sort of people live there! How many cooks, 
how many bagmen! There are brother officials 
of mine also there packed on each other like 
herrings. And I have a friend there, a fine 
player on the cornet.” 


112 MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 

The ladies mounted to the fifth story. “ Very 
good,” thought I; “I will make a note of the 
number, in order to follow up the matter at the 
first opportunity.” 

October 4th.—To-day is Wednesday, and I 
was as usual in the office. I came early on 
purpose, sat down, and mended all the pens. 

Our director must be a very clever man. 
The whole room is full of bookcases. I read the 
titles of some of the books; they were very 
learned, beyond the comprehension of people 
of my class, and all in French and German. I 
look at his face; see! how much dignity there is 
in his eyes. I never hear a single superfluous 
word from his mouth, except that when he hands 
over the documents, he asks “ What sort of 
weather is it? ” 

No, he is not a man of our class; he is a real 
statesman. I have already noticed that I am a 
special favourite of his. If now his daughter 
also—ah! what folly—let me say no more about 
it! 

I have read the Northern Bee. What foolish 
people the French are! By heavens! I should 
like to tackle them all, and give them a thrash¬ 
ing. I have also read a fine description of a 
ball given by a landowner of Kursk. The land- 
owners of Kursk write a fine style. 

Then I noticed that it was already half-past 


MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 113 

twelve, and the director had not yet left his 
bedroom. But about half-past one something 
happened which no pen can describe. 

The door opened. I thought it was the 
director; I jumped up with my documents from 
the seat, and—then—she—herself—came into 
the room. Ye saints! how beautifully she was 
dressed. Her garments were whiter than a 
swan’s plumage—oh how splendid! A sun, 
indeed, a real sun! 

She greeted me and asked, “Has not my 
father come yet? ” 

Ah! what a voice. A canary bird! A real 
canary bird! 

“ Your Excellency,” I wanted to exclaim, 
“ don’t have me executed, but if it must be 
done, then kill me rather with your own angelic 
hand.” But, God knows why, I could not bring 
it out, so I only said, “No, he has not come yet.” 

She glanced at me, looked at the books, and 
let her handkerchief fall. Instantly I started 
up, but slipped on the infernal polished floor, 
and nearly broke my nose. Still I succeeded 
in picking up the handkerchief. Ye heavenly 
choirs, what a handkerchief! So tender and 
soft, of the finest cambric. It had the scent of 
a general’s rank! 

She thanked me, and smiled so amiably that 
her sugar lips nearly melted. Then she left the 
room. 

S 


114 MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 

After I had sat there about an hour, a flunkey 
came in and said, “You can go home, Mr 
Ivanovitch; the director has already gone out! ” 

I cannot stand these lackeys! They hang 
about the vestibules, and scarcely vouchsafe to 
greet one with a nod. Yes, sometimes it is even 
worse; once one of these rascals offered me his 
snuff-box without even getting up from his chair. 
•“ Don’t you know then, you country-bumpkin, 
that I am an official and of aristocratic birth? ” 

This time, however, I took my hat and over¬ 
coat quietly; these people naturally never think 
of helping one on with it. I went home, lay a 
good while on the bed, and wrote some verses 
in my note: 

“ ’Tis an hour since I saw thee, 

And it seems a whole long year; 

If I loathe my own existence, 

How can I live on, my dear? ” 

I think they are by Pushkin. 

In the evening I wrapped myself in my cloak, 
hastened to the director’s house, and waited 
there a long time to see if she would come out 
and get into the carriage. I only wanted to see 
her once, but she did not come. 

November Qth .—Our chief clerk has gone 
mad. When I came to the office to-day he called 
me to his room and began as follows: “Look 
here, my friend, what wild ideas have got into 
your head? ” 


MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 115 

“How! What? None at all,” I answered. 

“ Consider well. You are already past forty; 
it is quite time to be reasonable. What do you 
imagine? Do you think I don’t know all your 
tricks? Are you trying to pay court to the 
director’s daughter? Look at yourself and 
realise what you are! A nonentity, nothing else. 
I would not give a kopeck for you. Look well 
in the glass. How can you have such thoughts 
with such a caricature of a face?” 

May the devil take him! Because his own 
face has a certain resemblance to a medicine- 
bottle, because he has a curly bush of hair on 
his head, and sometimes combs it upwards, and 
sometimes plasters it down in all kinds of queer 
ways, he thinks that he can do everything. I 
know well, I know why he is angry with me. 
He is envious; perhaps he has noticed the tokens 
of favour which have been graciously shown me. 
But why should I bother about him? A coun¬ 
cillor ! What sort of important animal is that? 
He wears a gold chain with his watch, buys 
himself boots at thirty roubles a pair; may the 
deuce take him! Am I a tailor’s son or some 
other obscure cabbage ? I am a nobleman! I 
can also work my way up. I am just forty-two 
—an age when a man’s real career generally 
begins. Wait a bit, my friend! I too may get 
to a superior’s rank; or perhaps, if God is 
gracious, even to a higher one, I shall make a 


116 MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 

name which will far outstrip yours. You think 
there are no able men except yourself? I only 
need to order a fashionable coat and wear a tie 
like yours, and you would be quite eclipsed. 

But I have no money—that is the worst part 
of it! 

November 8th .—I was at the theatre. “ The 
Russian House-Fool ” was performed. I laughed 
heartily. There was also a kind of musical 
comedy which contained amusing hits at bar¬ 
risters. The language was very broad; I wonder 
the censor passed it. In the comedy lines occur 
which accuse the merchants of cheating; their 
sons are said to lead immoral lives, and to 
behave very disrespectfully towards the nobility. 

The critics also are criticised; they are said 
only to be able to find fault, so that authors have 
to beg the public for protection. 

Our modern dramatists certainly write amus¬ 
ing things. I am very fond of the theatre.' If 
I have only a kopeck in my pocket, I always 
go there. Most of my fellow-officials are un¬ 
educated boors, and never enter a theatre unless 
one throws free tickets at their head. 

One actress sang divinely. I thought also of 
—but silence! 

November 9th .—About eight o’clock I went to 
the office. The chief clerk pretended not to 
notice my arrival. I for my part also behaved 


MEMOIES OF A MADMAN 117 

as though he were not in existence. I read 
through and collated documents. About four 
o’clock I left. I passed by the director’s house, 
but no one was to be seen. After dinner I lay 
for a good while on the bed. 

November 11th. —To-day I sat in the di¬ 
rector’s room, mended twenty-three pens for 
him, and for Her—for Her Excellence, his 
daughter, four more. 

The director likes to see many pens lying on 
his table. What a head he must have! He 
continually wraps himself in silence, but I don’t 
think the smallest trifle escapes his eye. I should 
like to know what he is generally thinking of, 
what is really going on in this brain; I should like 
to get acquainted with the whole manner of life 
of these gentlemen, and get a closer view of their 
cunning courtiers’ arts, and all the activities of 
these circles. I have often thought of asking His 
Excellence about them; but—the deuce knows 
why!—every time my tongue failed me and I 
could get nothing out but my meteorological 
report. 

I wish I could get a look into the spare-room 
whose door I so often see open. And a second 
small room behind the spare-room excites my 
curiosity. How splendidly it is fitted up; what a 
quantity of mirrors and choice china it contains! 
I should also like to cast a glance into those 


118 MEMOIKS OF A MADMAN 

regions where Her Excellency, the daughter, 
wields the sceptre. I should like to see how all 
the scent-bottles and boxes are arranged in her 
boudoir, and the flowers which exhale so de¬ 
licious a scent that one is half afraid to breathe. 
And her clothes lying about which are too 
ethereal to be called clothes—but silence! 

To-day there came to me what seemed a 
heavenly inspiration. I remembered the conver¬ 
sation between the two dogs which I had over¬ 
heard on the Nevski Prospect. “ Very good,” 
I thought; “ now I see my way clear. I must 
get hold of the correspondence which these two 
silly dogs have carried on with each other. In 
it I shall probably find many things explained.” 

I had already once called Meggy to me and 
said to her, ‘ ‘ Listen, Meggy! Now we are 
alone together; if you like, I will also.shut the 
door so that no one can see us. Tell me now 
all that you know about your mistress. I swear 
to you that I will tell no one.” 

But the cunning dog drew in its tail, ruffled up 
its hair, and went quite quietly out of the door, 
as though it had heard nothing. 

I had long been of the opinion that dogs are 
much cleverer than men. I also believed that 
they could talk, and that only a certain obstinacy 
kept them from doing so. They are especially 
watchful animals, and nothing escapes their 
observation. Now, cost what it may, I will go 


MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 119 

to-morrow to Sverkoff’s house in order to ask 
after Fidel, and if I have luck, to get hold of all 
the letters which Meggy has written to her. 

November 12th. —To-day about two o’clock 
in the afternoon I started in order, by some 
means or other, to see Fidel and question her. 

I cannot stand this smell of Sauerkraut which' 
assails one’s olfactory nerves from all the shops 
in Citizen Street. There also exhales such an 
odour from under each house door, that one 
must hold one’s nose and pass by quickly. 
There ascends also so much smoke and soot from 
the artisans’ shops that it is almost impossible to 
get through it. 

When I had climbed up to the sixth story, 
and had rung the bell, a rather pretty girl with a 
freckled face came out. I recognised her as the 
companion of the old lady. She blushed a little 
and asked “ What do you want?” 

‘ ‘ I want to have a little conversation with your 
dog.” 

She was a simple-minded girl, as I saw at once. 
The dog came running and barking loudly. I 
wanted to take hold of it, but the abominable 
beast nearly caught hold of my nose with its 
teeth. But in a corner of the room I saw its 
sleeping-basket. Ah! that was what I wanted. 
I went to it, rummaged in the straw, and to my 
great satisfaction drew out a little packet of small 



120 MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 

pieces of paper. When the hideous little dog 
saw this, it first bit me in the calf of the leg, and 
then, as soon as it had become aware of my theft, 
it began to whimper and to fawn on me; but I 
said, “No, you little beast; good-bye!” and 
hastened away. 

I believe the girl thought me mad; at any rate 
she was thoroughly alarmed. 

When I reached my room I wished to get to 
work at once, and read through the letters by 
daylight, since I do not see well by candle-light; 
but the wretched Mawra had got the idea of 
sweeping the floor. These blockheads of Fin¬ 
nish women are always clean where there is no 
need to be. 

I then went for a little walk and began to think 
over what had happened. Now at last I could 
get to the bottom of all facts, ideas and motives! 
These letters would explain everything. Dogs 
are clever fellows; they know all about politics, 
and I will certainly find in the letters all I want, 
especially the character of the director and all 
his relationships. And through these letters I 
will get information about her who—but silence! 

Towards evening I came home and lay for a 
good while on the bed. 

November 13th .—Now let us see! The letter 
is fairly legible but the handwriting is somewhat 
doggish. 


MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 121 

‘ ‘ Dear Fidel !—-I cannot get accustomed to 
your ordinary name, as if they could not have 
found a better one for you! Fidel! How taste¬ 
less ! How ordinary! But this is sot the time 
to discuss it. I am very glad that we thought of 
corresponding with each other.” 

(The letter is quite correctly written. The 
punctuation and spelling are perfectly right. 
Even our head clerk does not write so simply 
and clearly, though he declares he has been at 
the University. Let us go on.) 

‘ ‘ I think that it is one of the most refined joys 
of this world to interchange thoughts, feelings, 
and impressions.” 

(H’m! This idea comes from some book 
which has been translated from German. I 
can’t remember the title.) 

“ I speak from experience, although I have 
not gone farther into the world than just before 
our front door. Does not my life pass happily 
and comfortably? My mistress, whom her 
father calls Sophie, is quite in love with me.” 

(Ah! Ah!—but better be silent!) 

“ Her father also often strokes me. I drink 
tea and coffee with cream. Yes, my dear, I must 
confess to you that I find no satisfaction in those 
large, gnawed-at bones which Polkan devours in 
the kitchen. Only the bones of wild fowl are 
good, and that only when the marrow has not 
been sucked out of them. They taste very nice 


122 MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 

with a little sauce, but there should be no green 
stuff in it. But I know nothing worse than the 
habit of giving dogs balls of bread kneaded up. 
Someone sits at table, kneads a bread-ball .with 
dirty fingers,calls you and sticks it in your mouth. 
Good manners forbid your refusing it, and you 
eat it—with disgust it is true, but you eat it.” 

(The deuce! What is this? What rubbish! 
As if she could find nothing more suitable to 
write about! I will see if there is anything more 
reasonable on the second page.) 

“I am quite willing to inform you of every¬ 
thing that goes on here. I have already men¬ 
tioned the most important person in the house, 
whom Sophie calls ‘ Papa.’ He is a very strange 
man.” 

(Ah! Here we are at last! Yes, I knew it; 
they have a politician’s penetrating eye for all 
things. Let us see what she says about “ Papa.”) 

“. . . a strange man. Generally he is silent; 
he only speaks seldom, but about a week ago he 
kept on repeating to himself, ‘ Shall I get it or 
not?’ In one hand he took a sheet of paper; 
the other he stretched out as though to receive 
something, and repeated, ‘ Shall I get it or not? ’ 
Once he turned to me with the question, ‘ What 
do you think, Meggy? ’ I did not understand in 
the least what he meant, sniffed at his boots, and 
went away. A week later he came home with 
his face beaming. That morning he was visited 


MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 123 

by several officers in uniform who congratulated 
him. At the dinner-table he was in a better 
humour than I have ever seen him before.” 

(Ah! he is ambitious then! I must make a 
note of that.) 

“Pardon, my dear, I hasten to conclude, etc., 
etc. To-morrow I will finish the letter.” 

‘ * Now, good morning; here I am again at 
your service. To-day my mistress Sophie . . .” 

(Ah! we will see what she says about Sophie. 
Let us go on!) 

“. . . was in an unusually excited state. 
She went to a ball, and I was glad that I could 
write to you in her absence. She likes going to 
balls, although she gets dreadfully irritated while 
dressing. I cannot understand, my dear, what 
is the pleasure in going to a ball. She comes 
home from the ball at six o’clock in the early 
morning, and to judge by her pale and emaciated 
face, she has had nothing to eat. I could, 
frankly speaking, not endure such an existence. 
If I could not get partridge with sauce, or the 
wing of a roast chicken, I don’t know what I 
should do. Porridge with sauce is also toler¬ 
able, but I can get up no enthusiasm for carrots, 
turnips, and artichokes.” 

The style is very unequal! One sees at once 
that it has not been written by a man. The 



124 MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 

beginning is quite intelligent, but at the end the 
canine nature breaks out. I will read another 
letter; it is rather long and there is p.o date. 

Ah, my dear, how delightful is the arrival of 
spring! My heart beat? as though it expected 
something. There is a perpetual ringing in my 
ears, so that I often stand with my foot raised, 
for several minutes at a time, and listen towards 
the door. In confidence I will tell you that I 
have many admirers. I often sit on the window¬ 
sill and let them pass in review. Ah! if you 
knew what miscreations there are among them; 
one, a clumsy house-dog, with stupidity written 
on his face, walks the street with an important 
air and imagines that he is an extremely impor¬ 
tant person, and that the eyes of all the world 
are fastened on him. I don’t pay him the least 
attention, and pretend not to see him at all. 

' * And what a hideous bulldog has taken up 
his post opposite my window! If he stood on 
his hind-legs, as the monster probably cannot, 
he would be taller by a head than my mistress’s 
papa, who himself has a stately figure. This lout 
seems, moreover, to be very impudent. I growl 
at him, but he does not seem to mind that at all. 
If he at least would only wrinkle his forehead! 
Instead of that, he stretches out his tongue, 
droops his big ears, and stares in at the window 
—this rustic boor! But do you think, my dear, 


MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 125 

that my heart remains proof against all tempta¬ 
tions? Alas no! If you had only seen that 
gentlemanly dog who crept through the fence 
of the neighbouring house. ‘ Treasure 5 is his 
name. Ah, my dear, what a delightful snout he 
has!” 

(To the deuce with the stuff! What rubbish 
it is! How can one blacken paper with such' 
absurdities. Give me a man. I want to see a 
man! I need some food to nourish and refresh 
my mind, and get this silliness instead. I will 
turn the page to see if there is anything better 
on the other side.) 

“ Sophie sat at the table and sewed something. 
I looked out of the window and amused myself 
by watching the passers-by. Suddenly a flunkey 
entered and announced a visitor—‘Mr Teploff.’ 

Show him in! * said Sophie, and began to 
embrace me. ‘ Ah! Meggy, Meggy, do you 
know who that is? He is dark, and belongs to 
the Royal Household; and what eyes he has! 
Dark and brilliant as fire.’ 

“ Sophie hastened into her room. A minute 
later a young gentleman with black whiskers 
entered. He went to the mirror, smoothed his 
hair, and looked round the room. I turned away 
and sat down in my place. 

“ Sophie entered and returned his bow in a 
friendly manner. 

‘ ‘ I pretended to observe nothing, and con- 


126 MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 

tinued to look out of the window. But I leant 
my head a little on one side to hear what they 
were talking about. Ah, my dear! what silly 
things they discussed—how a lady executed the 
wrong figure in dancing; how a certain Boboff, 
with his expansive shirt-frill, had looked like a 
stork and nearly fallen down; how a certain 
Lidina imagined she had blue eyes when they 
were really green, etc. 

“ I do not know, my dear, what special charm 
she finds in her Mr Teploff, and why she is so 
delighted with him.” 

(It seems to me myself that there is something 
wrong here. It is impossible that this Teploff 
should bewitch her. We will see further.) 

“If this gentleman of the Household pleases 
her, then she must also be pleased, according to 
my view, with that official who sits in her papa’s 
writing-room. Ah, my dear, if you know what 
a figure he is! A regular tortoise! ” 

(What official does she mean?) 

“ He has an extraordinary name. He always 
sits there and mends the pens. His hair looks 
like a truss of hay. Her papa always employs 
him instead of a servant.” 

(I believe this abominable little beast is refer¬ 
ring to me. But what has my hair got to do with 
hay?) 

“Sophie can never keep from laughing when 

she sees him.” 


MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 127 

You lie, cursed dog! What a scandalous 
tongue! As if I did not know that it is envy 
which prompts you, and that here there is 
treachery at work—yes, the treachery of the 
chief clerk. This man hates me implacably; he 
has plotted against me, he is always seeking to 
injure me. I’ll look through one more letter; 
perhaps it will make the matter clearer. 

“Fidel, my dear, pardon me that I have not 
written for so long. I was floating in a dream 
of delight. In truth, some author remarks, 
‘Love is a second life.’ Besides, great changes 
are going on in the house. The young chamber- 
lain is always here. Sophie is wildly in love with 
him. Her papa is quite contented. I heard 
from Gregor, who sweeps the floor, and is in 
the habit of talking to himself, that the marriage 
will soon be celebrated. Her papa will at any 
rate get his daughter married to a general, a 
colonel, or a chamberlain.” 

Deuce take it! I can read no more. It is 
all about chamberlains and generals. I should 
like myself to be a general—not in order to sue 
for her hand and all that—no, not at all; I 
should like to be a general merely in order to 
see people wriggling, squirming, and hatching 
plots before me. 

And then I should like to tell them that they 
are both of them not worth spitting on. But it is 


128 MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 

vexatious! I tear the foolish dog’s letters up in 
a thousand pieces. 

December 3rd .—It is not possible that the 
marriage should take place; it is only idle gossip. 
What does it signify if he is a chamberlain! 
That is only a dignity, not a substantial thing 
which one can see or handle. His chamberlain’s 
office will not procure him a third eye in his 
forehead. Neither is his nose made of gold; it 
is just like mine or anyone else’s nose. He does 
not eat and cough, but smells and sneezes with 
it. I should like to get to the bottom of the 
mystery—whence do all these distinctions come? 
Why am I only a titular councillor? 

Perhaps I am really a count or a general, and 
only appear to be a titular councillor. Perhaps 
I don’t even know who and what I am. How 
many cases there are in history of a simple 
gentleman, or even a burgher or peasant* sud¬ 
denly turning out to be a great lord or 
baron? Well, suppose that I appear suddenly 
in a general’s uniform, on the right shoulder an 
epaulette, on the left an epaulette, and a blue 
sash across my breast, what sort of a tune would 
my beloved sing then? What would her papa, 
our director, say? Oh, he is ambitious! He is 
a freemason, certainly a freemason; however 
much he may conceal it, I have found it out. 
When he gives anyone his hand, he only reaches 


MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 129 

out two fingers. Well, could not I this minute 
be nominated a general or a superintendent? I 
should like to know why I am a titular councillor 
—why just th.at, and nothing more? 

December bth. —To-day I have been reading 
papers the whole morning. Very strange things 
are happening in Spain. I have not understood 
them all. It is said that the throne is vacant, 
the representatives of the people are in diffi¬ 
culties about finding an occupant, and riots are 
taking place. 

All this appears to me very strange. How can 
the throne be vacant? It is said that it will be 
occupied by a woman. A woman cannot sit on 
a throne. That is impossible. Only a king can 
sit on a throne. They say that there is no king 
there, but that is not possible. There cannot be 
a kingdom without a king. There must be a 
king, but he is hidden away somewhere. Per¬ 
haps he is actually on the spot, and only some 
domestic complications, or fears of the neigh¬ 
bouring Powers, France and other countries, 
compel him to remain in concealment; there 
might also be other reasons. 

December 8th .—I was nearly going to the 
office, but various considerations kept me from 
doing so. I keep on thinking about these 
Spanish affairs. How is it possible that a woman 
should reign? It would not be allowed, es- 

I 


130 MEMOIES OF A MADMAN 

pecially by England. In the rest of Europe the 
political situation is also critical; the Emperor of 
Austria- 

These events, to tell the truth, have so shaken 
and shattered me, that I could really do nothing 
all day. Mawra told me that I was very absent- 
minded at table. In fact, in my absent-minded¬ 
ness I threw two plates on the ground so that 
they broke in pieces. 

After dinner I felt weak, and did not feel up 
to making abstracts of reports. I lay most of 
the time on my bed, and thought of the Spanish 
affairs. 

The year 2000 : April 43rd.—To-day is a day 
of splendid triumph. Spain has a king; he has 
been found, and I am he. I discovered it to¬ 
day ; all of a sudden it came upon me like a flash 
of lightning. 

I do not understand how I could imagine;that 
I am a titular councillor. How could such a 
foolish idea enter my head? It was fortunate 
that it occurred to no one to shut me up in an 
asylum. Now it is all clear, and as plain as 
a pikestaff. Formerly—I don’t know why— 
everything seemed veiled in a kind of mist. 
That is, I believe, because people think that the 
human brain is in the head. Nothing of the 
sort; it is carried by the wind from the Caspian 
Sea. 



MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 131 

.For the first time I told Mawra who I am. 
When she learned that the king of Spain stood 
before her, she struck her hands together 
over her head, and nea_rly died of alarm. The 
stupid thing had never seen the king of Spain 
before! 

I comforted her, however, at once by assuring 
her that I was not angry with her for having 
hitherto cleaned my boots badly. Women are 
stupid things; one cannot interest them in 
lofty subjects. She was frightened because she 
thought all kings of Spain were like Philip II. 
But I explained to her that there was a great 
difference between me and him. I did not go 
to the office. Why the deuce should I? No, my 
dear friends, you won’t get me there again! I 
am not going to worry myself with your infernal 
documents any more. 

Marchember 86. Between day and night .— 
To-day the office-messenger came and summoned 
me, as I had not been there for three weeks. I 
went just for the fun of the thing. The chief 
clerk thought I would bow humbly before him, 
and make excuses; but I looked at him quite 
indifferently, neither angrily nor mildly, and sat 
down quietly at my place as though I noticed no 
one. I looked at all this rabble of scribblers, 
and thought, “ If you only knew who is sitting 
among you! Good heavens! what a to-do you 



132 MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 

would make. Even the chief clerk would bow 
himself to the earth before me as he does now 
before the director.” 

A pile of reports was laid before me, of which 
to make abstracts, but I did not touch them with 
one finger. 

After a little time there was a commotion in 
the office, and there a report went round that the 
director was coming. Many of the clerks vied 
with each other to attract his notice; but I did not 
stir. As he came through our room, each one 
hastily buttoned up his coat; but I had no idea 
of doing anything of the sort. What is the 
director to me? Should I stand up before him? 
Never. What sort of a director is he? He is a 
bottle-stopper, and no director. A quite ordi¬ 
nary, simple bottle-stopper—nothing more. I 
felt quite amused as they gave me a document 
to sign. 

They thought I would simply put down my 
name—“So-and-so, Clerk.” Why not? But 
at the top of the sheet, where the director gener¬ 
ally writes his name, I inscribed “Ferdinand 
VIII.” in bold characters. You should have 
seen what a reverential silence ensued. But 
I made a gesture with my hand, and said, 
“Gentlemen, no ceremony please!” Then I 
went out, and took my way straight to the 
director’s house. 

He was not at home. The flunkey wanted not 


MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 133 

to let me in, but I talked to him in such a way 
that he soon dropped his arms. 

I went straight to Sophie’s dressing-room. 
She eat before the mirror. When she saw me, 
she sprang up and took a step backwards; but I 
did not tell her that I was the king of Spain. 

But I told her that a happiness awaited her, 
beyond her power to imagine; and that in spite 
of all our enemies’ devices we should be united. 
That was all which I wished to say to her, and I 
went out. Oh, what cunning creatures these 
women are! Now I have found out what woman 
really is. Hitherto no one knew whom a woman 
really loves; I am the first to discover it—she 
loves the devil. Yes, joking apart, learned men 
write nonsense when they pronounce that she is 
this and that; she loves the devil—that is all. 
You see a woman looking through her lorgnette 
from a box in the front row. One thinks she is 
watching that stout gentleman who wears an 
order. Not a bit of it! She is watching the 
devil who stands behind his back. He has 
hidden himself there,"and beckons to her with 
his finger. And she marries him—actually—she 
marries him! 

That is all ambition, and the reason is that 
there is under the tongue a little blister in which 
there is a little worm of the size of a pin’s head. 
And this is constructed by a barber in Bean 
Street; I don’t remember his name at the 



134 MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 

moment, but so much is certain that, in con¬ 
junction with a midwife, he wants to spread 
Mohammedanism all over the world, and that in 
consequence of this a large number of people in 
France have already adopted the faith of Islam. 

No date. The day had no date .—I went for 
a walk incognito on the Nevski Prospect. I 
avoided every appearance of being the king of 
Spain. I felt it below my dignity to let myself 
be recognised by the whole world, since I must 
first present myself at court. And I was also 
restrained by the fact that I have at present no 
Spanish national costume. If I could only get 
a cloak! I tried to have a consultation with a 
tailor, but these people are real asses! More¬ 
over, they neglect their business, dabble in 
speculation, and have become loafers. I will 
have a cloak made out of my new official uniform 
which I have only worn twice. But to prevent 
this botcher of a tailor spoiling it, I will make it 
myself with closed doors, so that no one sees 
me. Since the cut must be altogether altered, 
I have used the scissors myself. 

I don’t remember the date. The devil knows 
what month it was. The cloak is quite ready. 
Mawra exclaimed aloud when I put it on. I 
will, however, not present myself at court yet; 
the Spanish deputation has not yet arrived. It 
would not be befitting if I appeared without 


MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 135 

them. My appearance would be less imposing. 
From hour to hour I expect them. 

The 1st .—The extraordinary long delay of the 
deputies in coming astonishes me. What can 
possibly keep them? Perhaps France has a hand 
in the matter; it is certainly hostilely inclined. 
I went to the post office to inquire whether the 
Spanish deputation had come. The postmaster 
is an extraordinary blockhead who knows 
nothing. “No,” he said to me, “there is no 
Spanish deputation here; but if you want to send 
them a letter, we will forward it at the fixed 
rate.” The deuce! What do I want with a 
letter? Letters are. nonsense. Letters are 
written by apothecaries. . . . 

Madrid, February 30th .—So I am in Spain 
after all! It has happened so quickly that I 
could hardly take it in. The Spanish deputies 
came early this morning, and I got with them 
into the carriage. This unexpected promptness 
seemed to me strange. We drove so quickly 
that in half an hour we were at the Spanish 
frontier. Over all Europe now there are cast- 
iron roads, and the steamers go very fast. A 
wonderful country, this Spain! 

As we entered the first room, I saw numerous 
persons with shorn heads I guessed at once 
that they must be either grandees or soldiers, at 
least to judge by their shorn heads. 



136 MEMOIES OF A MADMAN 

The Chancellor of the State, who led me by 
the hand, seemed to me to behave in a very 
strange way; he pushed me into a little room 
and said, “Stay here, and if you call yourself 
‘ King Ferdinand ’ again, I will drive the wish 
to do so out of you.” 

I knew, however, that that was only a test, 
and I reasserted my conviction; on which the 
Chancellor gave me two such severe blows with 
a stick on the back, that I could have cried out 
.with the pain. But I restrained myself, remem¬ 
bering that this was a usual ceremony of old- 
time chivalry when one was inducted into a high 
position, and in Spain the laws of chivalry 
prevail up to the present day. When I was 
alone, I determined to study State affairs; I 
discovered that Spain and China are one and the 
same country, and it is only through ignorance 
that people regard them as separate kingdoms. 
I advice everyone urgently to write down the 
.word “ Spain ” on a sheet of paper; he will see 
that it is quite the same as China. 

But I feel much annoyed by an event which is 
about to take place to-morrow; at seven o’clock 
the earth is going to sit on the moon. This is 
foretold by the famous English chemist, Wel¬ 
lington. To tell the truth, I often felt uneasy 
when I thought of the excessive brittleness and 
fragility of the moon. The moon is generally 
repaired in Hamburg, and very imperfectly. It 


MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 137 

is done by a lame cooper, an obvious blockhead 
who has no idea how to do it. He took waxed 
thread and olive-oil—hence that pungent smell 
over all the earth which compels people to hold 
their noses. And this makes the moon so fragile 
that no men can live on it, but only noses. 
Therefore we cannot see our noses, because they 
are on the moon. 

When I now pictured to myself how the earth, 
that massive body, would crush our noses to 
dust, if it sat on the moon, I became so uneasy, 
that I immediately put on my shoes and stock¬ 
ings and hastened into the council-hall to give 
the police orders to prevent the moon sitting on 
the earth. 

The grandees with the shorn heads, whom 
I met in great numbers in the hall, were 
very intelligent people, and when I exclaimed, 

‘ ‘ Gentlemen! let us save the moon, for the earth 
is going to sit on it,” they all set to work to fulfil 
my imperial wish, and many of them clambered 
up the wall in order to take the moon down. 
At that moment the Imperial Chancellor came in. 
As soon as he appeared, they all scattered, but I 
alone, as king, remained. To my astonishment, 
however, the Chancellor beat me with the stick 
and drove me to my room. So powerful are 
ancient customs in Spain! 

January in the same year, following after 


138 MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 

February .—I can never understand what kind 
of a country this Spain really is. The popular 
customs and rules of court etiquette are quite 
extraordinary. I do not understand them at all, 
at all. To-day my head was shorn, although I 
exclaimed as loudly as I could, that I did 
not want to be a monk. What happened after¬ 
wards, when they bega,n to let cold water trickle 
on my head, I do not know. I have never 
experienced such hellish torments. I nearly 
went mad, and they had difficulty in holding me. 
The significance of this strange custom is entirely 
hidden from me. It is a very foolish and un¬ 
reasonable one. 

Nor can I understand the stupidity of the kings 
who have not done away with it before now. 
Judging by all the circumstances, it seems to me 
as though I had fallen into the hands of the 
Inquisition, and as though the man whom I took 
to be the Chancellor was the Grand Inquisitor. 
But yet I cannot understand how the king could 
fall into the hands of the Inquisition. The affair 
may have been arranged by France—especially 
Polignac—he is a hound, that Polignac! He 
has sworn to compass my death, and now he is 
hunting me down. But I know, my friend, that 
you are only a tool of the English. They are 
clever fellows, and have a finger in every pie. 
All the world knows that France sneezes when 
England takes a pinch of snuff. 


MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 139 

The 25th. —To-day the Grand Inquisitor came 
into my room; when I heard his steps in the 
distance, I hid myself under a chair. When 
he did not see me, he began to call. At first he 
called “ Poprishchin! ” I made no answer. 
Then he called “ Axanti Ivanovitch! Titular 
Councillor! Nobleman! ” I still kept silence. 
“Ferdinand the Eighth, King of Spain!” I 
was on the point of putting out my head, but I 
thought, “ No, brother, you shall not deceive 
me! You shall not pour water on my head 
again! ’ ’ 

But he had already seen me and drove me from 
under the chair with his stick. The cursed stick 
really hurts one. But the following discovery 
compensated me for all the pain, i.e. that every 
cock has his Spain under his feathers. The 
Grand Inquisitor went angrily away, and threat¬ 
ened me with some punishment or other. I felt 
only contempt for his powerless spite, for I know 
that he only works like a machine, like a tool of 
the English. 

34 March. February, 349.—No, I have no 
longer power to endure. 0 God! what are they 
going to do with me ? They pour cold water on 
my head. They take no notice of me, and seem 
neither to see nor hear. Why do they torture 
me ? What do they want from one so wretched 
as myself? What can I give them? I possess 


140 MEMOIRS OF A MADMAN 

nothing. I cannot bear all their tortures; my 
head aches as though everything were turning 
round in a circle. Save me! Carry me away! 
Give me three steeds swift as the wind! Mount 
your seat, coachman, ring bells, gallop horses, 
and carry me straight out of this world. Farther, 
ever farther, till nothing more is to be seen! 

Ah! the heaven bends over me already; a star 
glimmers in the distance; the forest with its dark 
trees in the moonlight rushes, past; a bluish mist 
floats under my feet; music sounds in the cloud; 
on the one side is the sea, on the other, Italy; 
beyond I also see Russian peasants’ houses. Is 
not my parents’ house there in the distance? 
Does not my mother sit by the window? 0 
mother, mother, save your unhappy son! Let a 
tear fall on his aching head! See how they 
torture him! Press the poor orphan to your 
bosom! He has no rest in this world; they hunt 
him from place to place. 

Mother, mother, have pity on your sick child! 
And do you know that the Bey of Algiers has a 
wart under his nose? 


A MAY NIGHT 

1 

Songs were echoing in the village street. It 
was just the time when the young men and girls, 
tired with the work and cares of the day, were 
in the habit of assembling for the dance. In the 
mild evening light, cheerful songs blended with 
mild melodies. A mysterious twilight obscured 
the blue sky and made everything seem indis¬ 
tinct and distant. It was growing dark, but the 
songs were not hushed. 

A young Cossack, Levko by name, the son of 
the village headman, had stolen away from the 
singers, guitar in hand. With his embroidered 
cap set awry on his head, and his hand playing 
over the strings, he stepped a measure to the 
music. Then he stopped at the door of a house 
half hidden by blossoming cherry-trees. Whose 
house was it? To whom did the door lead? 
After a little while he played and sang: 

“ The night is nigh, the sun is down, 

Come out to me, my love, my own! ” 

141 


142 


A MAY NIGHT 

11 No one is there; my bright-eyed beauty is 
fast asleep,” said the Cossack to himself as he 
finished the song and approached the window. 
“Hanna, Hanna, are you asleep, or won’t you 
come to me? Perhaps you are afraid someone 
will see us, or will not expose your delicate face 
to the cold! Fear nothing! The evening is 
warm, and there is no one near. And if anyone 
comes I will wrap you in my caftan, fold you in 
my arms, and no one will see us. And if the wind 
blows cold, I will press you close to my heart, 
warm you with my kisses, and lay my cap on your 
tiny feet, my darling. Only throw me a single 
glance. No, you are not asleep, you proud 
thing!” he exclaimed now louder, in a voice 
which betrayed his annoyance at the humiliation. 
“You are laughing at me! Good-bye!” 

Then he turned away, set his cap jauntily, and, 
still lightly touching his guitar, stepped back 
from the window. Just then the wooden handle 
of the door turned with a grating noise, and a girl 
who counted hardly seventeen springs looked 
out timidly through the darkness, and still keep¬ 
ing hold of the handle, stepped over the thres¬ 
hold. In the twilight her bright eyes shone like 
little stars, her coral necklace gleamed, and the 
pink flush on her cheeks did not escape the 
Cossack’s observation. 

“How impatient you are!” she said in a 
whisper. “You get angry so quickly! Why 


A MAY NIGHT 143 

did you choose such a time? There are crowds 
of people in the street. . . . I tremble all over.” 

“Don’t tremble, my darling! Come close 
to me!” said the Cossack, putting down his 
guitar, which hung on a long strap round his 
neck, and sitting down with her on the door¬ 
step. “ You know I find it hard to be only an 
hour without seeing you.” 

“Do you know what I am thinking of?” 
interrupted the young girl, looking at him 
thoughtfully. “ Something whispers to me that 
we shall not see so much of each other in the 
future. The people here are not well disposed 
to you, the girls look so envious, and the young 
fellows. ... I notice also that my mother 
watches me carefully for some time past. I 
must confess I was happier when among 
strangers.” Her face wore a troubled expres¬ 
sion as she spoke. 

“You are only two months back at home, 
and are already tired of it! ” said the Cossack. 
“And of me too perhaps?” 

“Oh no!” she replied, smiling. “I love 
you, you black-eyed Cossack! I love you be¬ 
cause of your dark eyes, and my heart laughs 
in my breast when you look at me. I feel so 
happy when you come down the street stroking 
your black moustache, and enjoy listening to 
your song when you play the guitar! ” 

“Oh my Hanna!” exclaimed the Cossack, 


144 A MAY NIGHT 

kissing the girl and drawing her closer to 
him. 

Stop, Levko! Tell me whether you have 
spoken to your father? ” 

“About what?” he answered absent- 
mindedly. “ About my marrying you? Yes, 
I did.” But he seemed to speak almost 
reluctantly. 

“Well? What more?”' 

“What can you make of him? The old 
curmudgeon pretends to be deaf; he will not 
listen to anything, and blames me for loafing with 
fellows, as he says, about the streets. But don’t 
worry, Hanna! I give you my word as a 
Cossack, I will break his obstinacy.” 

“ You only need to say a word, Levko, and it 
shall be as you wish. I know that of myself. 
Often I do not wish to obey you, but you speak 
only a word, and I involuntarily do what you 
wish. Look, look!” she continued, laying her 
head on his shoulder and raising her eyes to the 
sky, the immeasurable heaven of the Ukraine; 
“ there far away are twinkling little stars—one, 
two, three, four, five. Is it not true that those 
are angels opening the windows of their bright 
little homes and looking down on us. Is it not 
so, Levko? They are looking down on earth. If 
men had wings like birds, how high they could 
fly. But ah! not even our oaks reach the sky. 
Still people say there is in some distant land a 


A MAY NIGHT 145 

tree whose top reaches to heaven, and that God 
descends by it on the earth, the night before 
Easter.” 

“No, Hanna. God has a long ladder which 
reaches from heaven to earth. Before Easter 
Sunday holy angels set it up, and as soon as God 
puts His foot on the first rung, all evil spirits 
take to flight and fall in swarms into hell. That 
is why on Easter Day there are none of them on 
earth.” 

“ How gently the water ripples! Like a child 
in the cradle,” continued Hanna, pointing to the 
pool begirt by dark maples and weeping-willows, 
whose melancholy branches drooped in the 
water. On a hill near the wood slumbered an 
old house with closed shutters. The roof was 
covered with moss and weeds; leafy apple-trees 
had grown high up before the windows; the wood 
cast deep shadows on it; a grove of nut-trees 
spread from the foot of the hill as far as the pool. 

“ I remember as if in a dream,” said Hanna, 
keeping her eyes fixed on the house, “ a long, 
long time ago, when I was little and lived with 
mother, someone told a terrible story about this 
house. You must know it—tell me.” 

“ God forbid, my dear child! Old women 
and stupid people talk a lot of nonsense. It 
would only frighten you and spoil your sleep.” 

“Tell me, my darling, my black-eyed 
Cossack/’ she said, pressing her cheek to his. 

K 


146 A MAY NIGHT 

“No, you don’t love me; you have certainly 
another sweetheart! I will not be frightened, 
and will sleep quite quietly. If you refuse to tell 
me, that would keep me awake. I would keep 
on worrying and thinking about it. Tell me, 
Levko! 

‘ ‘ Certainly it is true what people say, that the 
devil possesses girls, and stirs up their curiosity. 
Well then, listen. Long ago there lived in 
that house an elderly man who had a beautiful 
daughter white as snow, just like you. His wife 
had been dead a long time, and he was thinking 
of marrying again. 

‘ ‘ ‘ Will you pet me as before, father, if you 
take a second wife?’ asked his daughter. 

“-‘Yes, my daughter,’ he answered, ‘ I shall 
love you more than ever, and give you yet more 
rings and necklaces.’ 

■“ So he brought a young wife home, who was 
beautiful and white and red, but she cast such 
an evil glance at her stepdaughter that she cried 
aloud, but not a word did her sulky stepmother 
speak to her all day long. 

‘ ‘ When night came, and her father and his 
wife had retired, the young girl locked herself up 
in her room, and feeling melancholy began to 
weep bitterly. Suddenly she spied a hideous 
black cat creeping towards her; its fur was aflame 
and its claws struck on the ground like iron, In 
her terror the girl sprang on a chair; the cat 


A MAY NIGHT 147 

followed her. Then she sprang into bed; the 
cat sprang after her, and seizing her by 
the throat began to choke her. She tore the 
creature away, and flung it on the ground, but 
the terrible cat began to creep towards her again. 
Rendered desperate with terror, she seized her 
father’s sabre which hung on the wall, and struck 
at the cat, wounding one of its paws. The 
animal disappeared, whimpering. 

‘ ‘ The next day the young wife did not leave 
her bedroom; the third day she appeared with 
her hand bound up. 

“ The poor girl perceived that her stepmother 
was a witch, and that she had wounded her 
hand. 

“On the fourth day her father told her to 
bring water, to sweep the floor like a servant- 
maid, and not to show herself where he and his 
wife sat. She obeyed him, though with a heavy 
heart. On the fifth day he drove her barefooted 
out of the house, without giving her any food 
for her journey. Then she began to sob and 
covered her face with her hands. 

“ ‘ You have ruined your own daughter, 
father! ’ she cried; ‘ and the witch has ruined 
your soul. May God forgive you! He will not 
allow me to live much longer.’ 

“ And do you see,” continued Levko, turning 
to Hanna and pointing to the house, “ do you 
see that high bank; from that bank she threw 


148 


A MAY NIGHT 

herself into the water, and has been no more 
seen on earth.” 

“And the witch?” Hanna interrupted, 
timidly fastening her tearful eyes on him. 

“ The witch? Old women say that when the 
moon shines, all those who have been drowned 
come out to warm themselves in its rays, and 
that they are led by the witch’s stepdaughter. 
One night she saw her stepmother by the pool, 
caught hold of her, and dragged her screaming 
into the water. But this time also the witch 
played her a trick; she changed herself into one 
of those who had been drowned, anl so escaped 
the chastisement she would have received at 
their hands. 

* ‘ Let anyone who likes believe the old 
women’s stories. They say that the witch’s 
stepdaughter gathers together those who have 
been drowned every night, and looks in their 
faces in order to find out which of them is the 
witch; but has not done so yet. Such are the 
old wives’ tales. It is said to be the intention 
of the present owner to erect a distillery on the 
spot. But I hear voices. They are coming 
home from the dancing. Good-bye, Hanna! 
Sleep well, and don’t think of all that nonsense.” 
So saying he embraced her, kissed her, and 
departed. 

“ Good-bye, Levko! ” said Hanna, still gazing 
at the dark pine wood, 


A MAY NIGHT 149 

The brilliant moon was now rising and filling 
all the earth with splendour. The pool shone 
like silver, and the shadows of the trees stood 
out in strong relief. 

“ Good-bye, Hanna! ” she heard again as she 
spoke, and felt the light pressure of a kiss. 

“You have come back! ” she said, looking 
round, but started on seeing a stranger before 
her. 

There was another “Good-bye, Hanna!” 
and again she was kissed. 

“Has the devil brought a second?” she 
exclaimed angrily. 

‘ ‘ Good-bye, dear Hanna! ’ ’ 

“ There is a third! ” 

“Good-bye, good-bye, good-bye, Hanna!” 
and kisses rained from all sides. 

“ Why, there is a whole band of them! ” cried 
Hanna, tearing herself from the youths who had 
gathered round. “ Are they never tired of the 
eternal kissing? I shall soon not be able to show 
myself on the street!” So saying, she closed 
the door and bolted it. 


n 

THE VILLAGE HEADMAN 

Do you know a Ukraine night? No, you do not 
know a night in the Ukraine. Gaze your full 
on it. The moon shines in the midst of the sky; 
the immeasurable vault of heaven seems to have 


150 


A MAY NIGHT 

expanded to infinity; the earth is bathed in silver 
light; the air is warm, voluptuous, and redolent 
of innumerable sweet scents. Divine night! 
Magical night! Motionless, but inspired with 
divine breath, the forests stand, casting enormous 
shadows and wrapped in complete darkness. 
Calmly and placidly sleep the lakes surrounded 
by dark green thickets. The virginal groves of 
the hawthorns and cherry-trees stretch their 
roots timidly into the cool water; only now and 
then their leaves rustle unwillingly when that 
freebooter, the night-wind, steals up to kiss them. 
The whole landscape is hushed in slumber; 
but there is a mysterious breath upon the 
heights. One falls into a weird and unearthly 
mood, and silvery apparitions rise from the 
depths. Divine night! Magical night! Sud¬ 
denly the woods, lakes, and steppes become 
alive. The nightingales of the Ukraine are sing¬ 
ing, and it seems as though the moon itself were 
listening to their song. The village sleeps as 
though under a magic spell; the cottages shine 
in the moonlight against the darkness of the 
woods behind them. The songs grow silent, 
and all is still. Only here and there is a glimmer 
of light in some small window. Some families, 
sitting up late, are finishing their supper at the 
thresholds of their houses. 

‘ ‘ No, the ‘ gallop ’ is not danced like that! 
Now I see, it does not go properly! What did 


A MAY NIGHT 151 

my godfather tell me ? So then! Hop! tralala! 
Hop! tralala! Hop! Hop! Hop! ’ ’ Thus 
a half-intoxicated, middle-aged Cossack talked 
to himself as he danced through the street. 
“ By heaven, a ‘ gallop ’ is not danced like that! 
What is the use of lying! On with it then! 
Hop! tralala! Hop! tralala! Hop! Hop! 
Hop!” 

“See that fool there! If he were only a 
young fellow! But to see a grown man dancing, 
and the children laughing at him, ” exclaimed an 
old woman who was passing by, carrying a 
bundle of straw. “ Go home! It is quite time 
to go to sleep! ” 

“I am going!” said the Cossack, standing 
still. “ I am going. What do.I care about the 
headman? He thinks because he is the eldest, 
and throws cold water on people, and carries his 
head high. As to being headman—I myself am 

a headman. Yes indeed—otherwise-” As 

he spoke, he stepped up to the door of the first 
cottage he came to, stood at the window, drum¬ 
ming with his fingers on the glass, and feeling 
for the door-handle. “Woman, open! Woman, 
open quickly I tell you! It is time for me to go 
to sleep! ” 

‘ ‘ Where are you going, Kalenik ? That is 
the wrong house! ” some young girls who were 
returning from the dance called to him as they 
passed. “ Shall we show you yours? ” 




152 A MAY NIGHT 

“Yes, please, ladies!” 

“ Ladies! Just listen to him! ” one of them 
exclaimed. “ How polite Kalenik is! We will 
show you the house—but no, first dance before 
us!” 

“ Dance before you? Oh, you are clever 
girls! ” said Kalenik in a drawling voice, and 
laughing. He threatened them with his finger, 
and stumbled, not being able to stand steadily. 
“ And will you let yourselves be kissed? I will 
kiss the lot.” With tottering steps he began to 
run after them. 

The girls cried out and ran apart; but they 
soon plucked up courage and went on the other 
side of the road, when they saw that Kalenik 
was not firm on his legs. 

“ There is your house! ” they called to him, 
pointing to one which was larger than the rest, 
and which belonged to the village headman. 

Kalenik turned towards it, and began again 
to revile the headman. 

But who is this headman to whose disadvantage 
so much has been said? Oh, he is a very 
important person in the village. Before Kalenik 
reaches his house, we shall doubtless find enough 
time to say something about him. Everyone in 
the village takes off his cap at the sight of him, 
and even the smallest girls wish him good 
morning. Which of the young Cossacks would 
not like to be a headman? The headman has 


A MAY NIGHT 153 

an entry everywhere, and every stalwart rustic 
stands respectfully, cap in hand, so long as the 
headman feels round his snuff-box with his thick, 
coarse finger. In parish-meetings and other 
assemblies, although his power may be limited 
by the votes of the majority, the headman still 
maintains the upper hand, and sends whom 
he chooses to make roads or dig ditches. In 
outward manners he is morose and severe, and 
not fond of talking. Long ago, when the 
Empress Catherine of blessed memory journeyed 
to the Crimea, he was chosen as one of her 
escort for two whole days, and had the high 
honour of sitting with the imperial coachman on: 
the box. 

Since then the headman has formed the habit 
of shaking his head solemnly and thoughtfully, 
of stroking his long, drooping moustache, and of 
darting hawk-like glances from his eyes. What¬ 
ever the topic of conversation may be, he 
manages to refer to his having accompanied the 
Empress, and sat on the box of the imperial 
coach. He often pretends to be hard of hearing, 
especially when he hears something that he does 
not like. He has an aversion for dandies, and 
himself wears under a black caftan of cloth, made 
at home, a simple, embroidered, woollen waist¬ 
band. No one has seen him wear any other 
dress except, of course, on the occasion of the 
Czarina’s journey to the Crimea, when he wore a 


154 A MAY NIGHT 

blue Cossack’s uniform. Hardly anyone in the 
village remembers that time, and he keeps the 
uniform packed up in a chest. 

The headman is a widower, but his sister-in- 
law lives with him. She cooks his dinner and 
supper, keeps the house and furniture clean, 
weaves linen, and acts as housekeeper generally. 
The village gossips say that she is not a relation 
of his; but we must remark that the headman has 
many enemies who spread all kinds of slanders 
about him. We have now said what we con¬ 
sidered to be necessary about the headman, and 
the drunken Kalenik is not yet half-way to his 
house. He continued to abuse the headman in 
terms which might be expected from one in his 
condition. 


Ill 

AN UNEXPECTED RIVAL—THE CONSPIRACY 

“No, you fellows, I won’t. What is the 
good of all those silly goings-on? Aren’t you 
tired of these foolish jokes ? People already call 
us good-for-nothing scapegraces. Better go to 
bed! ” So Levko said one evening to his com¬ 
panions, who were trying to persuade him to 
take part with them in further practical jokes. 
“Farewell, brothers! Good night!” he said, 
and left them with quick steps. 

“Does my bright-eyed Hanna sleep?” he 


A MAY NIGHT 155 

thought as he passed the house shaded by the 
cherry-trees. Then in the silence he heard 
the sound of a whispered conversation. Levko 
stood still. Between the trees there glimmered 
something white. ‘‘ What is that? ” he thought, 
as he crept closer and hid himself behind a tree. 

By the light of the moon he saw the face of a 
girl standing opposite him. It was Hanna. But 
who was the tall man who had his back turned to 
him? In vain he strained his eyes; the whole 
figure was hidden in shadow, and the slightest 
forward step on Levko’s part would expose him 
to the risk of discovery. He therefore leant 
quietly against the tree, and determined to 
remain where he was. Then he heard the girl 
utter his name distinctly. 

‘ ‘ Levko ? Levko is a baby, ’ ’ said the tall man 
in an undertone. “ If I ever find him with you, 
I will pull his hair.” 

“ I should like to know what rascal is boasting 
of pulling my hair,” said Levko to himself, 
stretching out his head and endeavouring to miss 
no word. But the stranger continued to speak 
so low that he was inaudible. 

“What, aren’t you ashamed?” said Hanna 
after he had finished. “You are lying and 
deceiving me; I will never believe that you love 

5 ) 

me. 

“I know,” continued the tall man, “that 
Levko has talked nonsense to you and turned 


156 A MAY NIGHT 

your head.” (Here it seemed to the Cossack 
as though the stranger’s voice were not quite 
unknown to him, and that he must have heard it 
somewhere or other.) “ But Levko shall learn to 
know me,” continued the stranger. “ He thinks 
I don’t notice his rascally tricks; but he will yet 
feel the weight of my fists, the scoundrel! ” 

At these words Levko could no longer restrain 
his wrath. He came three steps nearer, and 
took a run in order to plant a blow which would 
have stretched the stranger on the ground in 
spite of his strength. At that moment, however, 
a ray of light fell on the latter’s face, and Levko 
stood transfixed, for he saw it was his father. 
But he only expressed his surprise by an involun¬ 
tary shake of the head and a low whistle. 

On the other side there was the sound of 
approaching footsteps. Hanna ran hastily into 
the house and closed the door behind her. 

“ Good-bye, Hanna! ” cried one of the youths, 
who had stolen up and embraced the headman, 
but started back alarmed when he felt a rough 
moustache. 

* ‘ Good-bye, my darling! ’ ’ cried another, but 
speedily executed a somersault in consequence 
of a violent blow from the headman. 

“Good-bye, good-bye, Hanna!” exclaimed 
several youths, falling on his neck. 

“ Go to the deuce, you infernal scoundrels! ” 
shouted the headman, defending himself with 


A MAY NIGHT 157 

both hands and feet. “ WKat kind of Hanna do 
you take me for? Hang yourselves like your 
fathers did, you children of the devil! Falling 
on one like flies on honey! I will show you who 
Hanna is! ” 

“ The headman! The headman! It is the 
headman! ’’ cried the youths, running away in 
all directions. 

“Aha, father!’- said Levko to himself, 
recovering from his astonishment and looking 
after the headman as he departed, cursing and 
scolding. “Those are the tricks you like to 
play! Splendid! And I wonder and puzzle my 
head why he pretends to be deaf when I only 
touch on the matter! Wait, you old sinner, I 
will teach you to cajole other people’s sweet¬ 
hearts. Hi! you fellows, come here! ” he cried, 
beckoning to the youths, who gathered round 
him. “ Come nearer! I told you to go to bed, 
but I am differently minded now, and am ready 
to go round with you all night.” 

“That is reasonable,” exclaimed a broad- 
shouldered, stout fellow, who was regarded as 
the chief toper and good-for-nothing in the 
village. “ I always feel uncomfortable if I do 
not have a good fling, and play some practical 
jokes. I always feel as though there were some¬ 
thing wanting, as though I had lost my cap or my 
pipe—in a word, I don’t feel like a proper 
Cessack then! ” 


158 A MAY NIGHT 

“ Do you really want to bait the headman? ” 
asked Levko. 

“The headman? ” 

“ Yes, the headman. I don’t know for whom 
he takes himself. He carries on as though he 
were a duke. It is not only that he treats us as 
if we were his serfs, but he comes after our 
girls.” 

“Quite right! That is true! ” exclaimed all 
the youths together. 

“ But are we made of any worse stuff than he? 
We are, thank God! free Cossacks. Let us show 
him so.” 

“Yes, we will show him!” they shouted. 
‘ ‘ But when we go for the headman, we must not 
forget his clerk.” 

“The clerk shall have his share, too. Just 
now a song that suits the headman occurs to me. 
Go on! I will teach it you! ” continued Levko, 
striking the strings of his guitar. “ But listen! 
Disguise yourselves as well as you can.” 

“ Hurrah for the Cossacks! ” cried the stout 
reveller, dancing and clapping his hands. 

‘ ‘ Long live freedom! When one lets the reins 
go, one thinks of the good old times. It 
feels as jolly as though one were in paradise. 
Hurrah, you fellows! Go ahead ! ” 

The youths rushed noisily through the village 
street, and the pious old women, aroused from 
their sleep, looked through the windows, crossed 


A MAY NIGHT 159 

themselves drowsily, and thought, “ There they 
go, the wild young fellows! ” 

IV 

WILD PRANKS 

Only in one house at the end of the street there 
still burned a light; it was the headman’s. He 
had long finished his supper, and would cer¬ 
tainly have gone to sleep but that he had a guest 
with him, the brandy-distiller. The latter had 
been sent to superintend the building of a dis¬ 
tillery for the lords of the manor, who possessed 
small allotments between the lands of the free 
Cossacks. At the upper end of the table, in the 
place of honour, sat the guest—a short, stout 
man with small, merry eyes. He smoked his 
short pipe with obvious satisfaction, spitting 
every moment and constantly pushing the 
tobacco down in the bowl. The clouds of smoke 
collected over his head, and veiled him in a bluish 
mist. It seemed as though the broad chimney 
of a distillery, which was bored at always being 
perched up on the roof, had hit upon the idea of 
taking a little recreation, and had now settled 
itself comfortably at the headman’s table. Close 
under his nose bristled his short, thick mous¬ 
tache, which in the dim, smoky atmosphere 
resembled a mouse which the distiller had caught 


160 


A MAY NIGHT 

and held in his mouth, usurping the functions of 
a dining-room cat. The headman sat there, as 
master of the house, wearing only his shirt and 
linen breeches. His eagle eye began to grow 
dim like the setting sun, and to half close. At 
the lower end of the table sat, smoking his pipe, 
one of the village council, of which the headman 
was superintendent. Out of respect for the 
latter he had not removed his caftan. 

“How soon do you think,” asked the head¬ 
man, turning to the distiller and putting his hand 
before his gaping mouth, “will you have the 
distillery put up? ” 

“ With God’s help we shall be distilling brandy 
this autumn. On Conception Day I bet the 
headman will be tracing the figure eight with his 
feet on his way home.” So saying, the dis¬ 
tiller laughed so heartily that his small eyes 
disappeared altogether, his body was convulsed, 
and his twitching lips actually let go of the 
reeking pipe for a moment. 

“ God grant it! ” said the headman, on whose 
face the shadow of a smile was visible. “ Now, 
thank heaven, the number of distilleries is in¬ 
creasing a little; but in the old days, when I 
accompanied the Czarina on the Perejlaslov 
Road, and the late Besborodko-” 

“ Yes, my friend, those were bad times. 
Then from Krementchuk to Romen there were 
hardly two distilleries, Aud now—but have you 



A MAY NIGHT 161 

heard what the infernal Germans have invented? 
They say they will no longer use wood for fuel in 
the distilleries, but devilish steam.” At these 
words the distiller stared at the table reflectively, 
and at his arms resting on it. “ But how they 
can use steam—by heavens! I don’t know.” 

“What fools these Germans are!” said the 
headman. “ I should like to give those sons 
of dogs a good thrashing. Whoever heard of 
cooking with steam? At this rate one will not 
be able to get a spoonful of porridge or a bit of 
bacon into one’s mouth.” 

“And you, friend,” broke in the headman’s 
sister-in-law, who was sitting by the stove; “ will 
you be with us the whole time without your 
wife? ” 

“ Do I want her then? If she were only 
passably good-looking-” 

“ She is not pretty, then?” asked the head¬ 
man with a questioning glance. 

‘ ‘ How should she be; as old as Satan, and with 
a face as full of wrinkles as an empty purse,” 
said the distiller, shaking again with laughter. 

Then a noise was heard at the door, which 
opened and a Cossack stepped over the threshold 
without removing his cap, and remained standing 
in an absent-minded way in the middle of the 
room, with open mouth and gazing at the ceiling. 
It was Kalenik, whose acquaintance we have 
already made. 


L 



162 


A MAY NIGHT 

‘-‘Now I am at home/’ he said, taking his 
seat by the door, without taking any notice of 
those present. “ Ah! to what a length Satan 
made the road stretch. I went on and on, and 
there was no end. My legs are quite broken. 
Woman, bring me my fur blanket to lie down on. 
There it is in the corner; but mind you don’t 
upset the little pot of snuff. But no; better not 
touch it! Leave it alone ! You are really quite 
drunk—I had better get it myself.” 

Kalenik tried to rise, but an invincible power 
fettered him to his seat. 

“ That’s a nice business! ” said the headman. 
•“ He comes into a strange house, and behaves 
as though he were at home! Push him out, in 
heaven’s name! ” 

“Let him rest a bit, friend!” said the 
distiller, seizing the headman’s arm. “ The 
man is very useful; if we had only plenty of this 
kind, our distillery would get on grandly. . -. .” 
For the rest, it was not good-nature which 
inspired these words. The distiller was full of 
superstition, and to turn out a man who had 
already sat down, seemed to him to be tanta¬ 
mount to invoking the devil. 

“ That comes of being old,” grumbled 
Kalenik, stretching himself out along the seat. 
“ People might say I was drunk, but no, I am 
not! Why should I lie ? I am ready to tell the 
headman to his face! Who is the headman 


163 


A MAY NIGHT 

anyway? May he break his neck, the son of a 
dog! I spit at him! May he be run over by a 
cart, the one-eyed devil! ” 

“Ah! the drunken sot has crawled into the 
house, and now he lays his paws on the table,” 
said the headman, rising angrily; but at that 
moment a heavy stone, breaking a window-pane 
to pieces, fell at his feet. The headman re¬ 
mained standing. “ If I knew,” he said, “ what 
jail-bird has thrown it, I would give him some¬ 
thing. What devil’s trick is this? ” he con¬ 
tinued, looking at the stone, which he held in his 
hand, with burning eyes. “I wish I could 
choke him with it! ” • 

“ Stop! Stop! God preserve you, friend! ” 
broke in the distiller, looking pale. “ God keep 
you in this world and the next, but don’t curse 
anyone so.” 

“ Ah! now we have his defender! May he be 
ruined! ” 

“ Listen, friend! You don’t know what hap¬ 
pened to my late mother-in-law.” 

‘ ‘ Your mother-in-law ? ’ ’ 

“ Yes, my mother-in-law. One evening, 
perhaps rather earlier than this, they were sitting 
at supper, my late mother-in-law, my father-in- 
law, their two servants, and five children. My 
mother-in-law emptied some dumplings from the 
cooking-pot into a dish in order to cool them. 
But the others, being hungry after the day’s 


164 


A MAY NIGHT 

work, did not wait till they were quite cooled, but 
stuck their long wooden forks into them and ate 
them at once. All at once a stranger entered— 
heaven knows whence!—and asked to be allowed 
to share their meal. They could not refuse to 
feed a hungry man, and gave him also a wooden 
fork. But the guest made as short work with 
the dumplings as a cow with hay. Before the 
family had each of them finished his or her 
dumpling and reached out their forks again for 
another, the dish had been swept as clean as 
the floor of a nobleman’s drawing-room. My 
mother-in-law emptied out some more dump¬ 
lings ; she thought to herself, ‘ Now the guest is 
satisfied, and will not be so greedy.’ But on the 
contrary, he began to swallow them faster than 
ever, and emptied the second dish also. * May 
one of them choke you! ’ said my mother-in-law 
under her breath. Suddenly the guest seemed 
to try to clear his throat, and fell back. They 
rushed to his help, but his breath had stopped 
and he was dead.” 

“ Served him right, the cursed glutton! ” 

‘ ‘ But it turned out quite otherwise; since that 
time my mother-in-law has no rest. No sooner 
is it dark than the dead man approaches the 
house. He then sits astride the chimney, the 
scoundrel, holding a dumpling between his teeth. 
During the day it is quite quiet—one hears and 
sees nothing; but as soon as it begins to grow 


A MAY NIGHT 165 

dark, and one casts a look at the roof, there he 
is comfortably perched on the chimney! ” 

‘ ‘ A wonderful story, friend! I heard some¬ 
thing similar from my late-” 

Then the headman suddenly stopped. Out¬ 
side there were noises, and the stamping of 
dancers’ feet. The strings of a guitar were 
being struck gently, to the accompaniment of 
a voice. Then the guitar was played more 
loudly, many voices joined in, and the whole 
chorus struck up a song in ridicule of the 
headman. 

When it was over, the distiller said, with his 
head bent a little on one side, to the headman 
who was almost petrified by the audacity of the 
serenaders, “A fine song, my friend! ” 

‘ ‘ Very fine! Only it is a pity that they insult 
the headman.” 

He folded his arms with a certain measure of 
composure on the table, and prepared to listen 
further, for the singing and noise outside con¬ 
tinued. A sharp observer, however, would have 
seen that it was not mere torpidity which made 
the headman sit so quietly. In the same way a 
crafty cat often allows an inexperienced mouse 
to play about her tail, while she is quickly de¬ 
vising a plan to cut it off from the mouse-hole. 
The headman’s one eye was still fastened on 
the window, and his hand, after he had given 
the village councillor a sign, was reaching for 



166 


A MAY NIGHT 

the door-handle, when suddenly a loud noise 
and shouts were heard from the street. The 
distiller, who beside many other characteristics 
possessed a keen curiosity, laid down his pipe 
quickly and ran into the street; but the ne’er-do- 
wells had all dispersed. 

“No, you don’t escape me!” cried the 
headman, dragging Someone muffled up in a 
sheepskin coat with the hair turned outwards, by 
the arm. 

The distiller rapidly Seized a favourable 
moment to look at the face of this disturber of 
the peace; but he started back when he Saw a 
long beard and a grim, painted face. 

“No, you don’t escape me!” exclaimed the 
headman again as he dragged his prisoner into 
the vestibule. 

The latter offered no resistance, and followed 
him as quietly as though it had been his own 
house. 

“Karpo, open the store-room!” the head¬ 
man called to the village councillor. “ We will 
throw him in there! Then we will awake the 
clerk, call the village council together, catch this 
impudent rabble, and pass our sentence on them 
at once.” 

The village councillor unlocked the store¬ 
room; then in the darkness of the vestibule, the 
prisoner made a desperate effort to break loose 
from the headman’s arms. 


A MAY NIGHT 167 

“Ah! you would, would you?” exclaimed 
the headman, holding him more firmly by the 
collar. 

“ Let me go! It is I! ” a half-stifled voice 
was heard saying. 

“It is no good, brother! You may squeal if 
you choose, like the devil, instead of imitating 
a woman, but you won’t get round me.” So 
saying, he thrust the prisoner with such violence 
into the dark room that he fell on the ground and 
groaned aloud. 

The victorious headman, accompanied by the 
village councillor, now betook himself to the 
clerk’s; they were followed by the distiller, who 
was veiled in clouds of tobacco-smoke, and 
resembled a steamer. 

They were all three walking reflectively with 
bent heads, when suddenly, turning into a dark 
side-alley, they uttered a cry and started back ih 
consequence of coming into collision with three 
other men, who on their side shouted with equal 
loudness. The headman saw with his one eye, 
to his no small astonishment, the clerk with two 
village councillors. 

“ I was just coming to you, Mr Notary.” 

“ And I was on my way to your honour.” 

“ These are strange goings-on, Mr Notary.” 

“Indeed they are, your honour.” 

“Have you seen them then?” asked the 
headman, surprised. 


168 A MAY NIGHT 

“ The young fellows are roaming about the 
streets using vile language. They are abusing 
your honour in a way—in a word, it is a scandal. 
A drunken Russian would be ashamed to use 
such words.” 

The lean notary, in his gaily striped breeches 
and yeast-coloured waistcoat, kept on stretching 
forward and drawing back his neck while he 
talked. 

“ Hardly had I gone to sleep,” he continued, 
‘ ‘ than the cursed loafers woke me up with their 
shameful songs and their noise. I meant to give 
them a sound rating, but while I was putting on 
my breeches and vest, they all ran away. But 
the ringleader has not escaped; for the present 
he is shut up in the hut which we use as a prison. 
I was very curious to know who the scapegrace 
is, but his face is as sooty as t'he devil’s when 
he forges nails for sinners.” 

“ What clothes does he wear, Mr Notary?” 

“ The son of a dog wears a black sheepskin 
coat turned inside out, your honour.” 

“Aren’t you telling me a lie, Mr Notary? 
The same good-for-nothing is now shut up in my 
store-room under lock and key.” 

‘ * No, your honour! You have drawn the 
long bow a little yourself, and should not be 
vexed at what I say.” 

“ Bring a light! We will take a look at him 
at once! ” 


A MAY NIGHT 169 

They returned to the headman’s house; the 

store-room door was opened, and the headman 
groaned for sheer amazement as he saw his sister- 
in-law standing before him. 

“Tell me then,” she said, stepping forward, 
“have you quite lost your senses? Had you a 
single particle of brains in your one-eyed fish- 
head when you locked me up in the dark room. 
It is a mercy I did not break my head against the 
iron door hinge. Didn’t I shout out that it was 

I? Then he seized me, the cursed bear, with 

his iron claws, and pushed me in. May Satan 
hereafter so push you into hell!” The last 
words she spoke from the street, having wisely 
gone out of his reach. 

“Yes, ‘now I see that it is you!” said 
the headman, who had slowly recovered his 
composure. 

“Is he not a scamp and a scoundrel, Mr 
Clerk?” he continued. 

“Yes, certainly, your honour.” 

“Isn’t it high time to give all these loose 
fellows a lesson, that they may at last betake 
themselves to their work? ” 

“ Yes, it is high time, your honour.” 

“ The fools have combined in a gang. What 
the deuce is that? It sounded like my sister-in- 
law’s voice. The blockheads think that I am 
like her, an ordinary Cossack.” 

Here he coughed and cleared his throat, and 


170 A MAY NIGHT 

a gleam in his eyes showed that he was about to 
say something very important. “In the year 
one thousand—I cannot keep these cursed dates 
in my memory, if I was to be killed for it. 
Well, never mind when it was, the Commissary 
Ledatcho was commanded to choose out a 
Cossack who was cleverer than the rest. Yes,” 
he added, raising his forefinger, “ cleverer than 
the rest, to accompany the Czar. Then I 
was-” 

“Yes, yes,” the notary interrupted him, “we 
all know, headman, that you well deserved the 
imperial favour. But confess now that I was 
right: you made a mistake when you declared 
that you had caught the vagabond in the reversed 
sheepskin.” 

“ This disguised devil I will have imprisoned 
to Serve as a warning to the rest. They will have 
to learn what authority means. Who has ap¬ 
pointed the headman, if not the Czar? Then we 
will tackle the other fellows. I don’t forget how 
the scamps drove a whole herd of swine into my 
garden, which ate up all the cabbages and 
cucumbers; I don’t forget how those sons of 
devils refused to thrash my rye for me. I don’t 
forget—to the deuce with them! We must first 
find out who this scoundrel in the sheepskin 
really is.” 

“ He is a sly dog anyway,” said the distiller, 
whose cheeks during the whole conversation had 



A MAY NIGHT 171 

been as full of gmoke as a siege-cannon, and 
whose lips, when he took his pipe out of his 
mouth, seemed to emit Sparks. 

Meanwhile they had approached a email ruined 
hut. Their curiosity had mounted to the highest 
pitch, and they pressed round the door. The 
notary produced a key and tried to turn the lock, 
but it did not fit; it Was the key of his trunk. 
The impatience of the onlookers increased. He 
plunged his hand into the wide pocket of his gaily 
striped breeches, bent his back, scraped with his 
feet, uttered imprecations, and at last cried 
triumphantly, “ I have it! ” 

At these words the hearts of our heroes beat 
so loud, that the turning of the key in the lock 
was almost inaudible. At last the door opened, 
and the headman turned as white as a sheet. 
The distiller felt a shiver run down his spine, and 
his hair stood on end. Terror and apprehension 
were stamped on the notary’s face; the village 
councillors almost sank into the ground and could 
not shut their wide-open mouths. Before them 
stood the headman’s sister-in-law! 

She was not less startled than they, but 
recovered herself somewhat, and made a move¬ 
ment as if to approach them. 

“ Stop!” cried the headman in an excited 
voice, and slammed the door again. “ Sirs, 
Satan is behind this! ” he continued. “Bring 
fire quickly! Never mind the hut! Set it 


172 A MAY NIGHT 

alight and burn it up so that not even the witch’s 
bones remain.” 

“Wait a minute, brother!” exclaimed the 
distiller. “ Your hair is grey, but you are not 
very intelligent; no ordinary fire will burn a 
witch. Only the fire of a pipe can do it. I will 
manage it all right.” So saying, he shook some 
glowing ashes from his pipe on to a bundle of 
straw, and began to fan the flame. 

Despair gave the unfortunate woman courage; 
she began to implore them in a loud voice. 

“Stop a moment, brother! Perhaps we are 
incurring guilt needlessly. Perhaps she is really 
no witch!” said the notary. “If the person 
sitting in there declares herself ready to make 
the sign of the cross, then she is not a child of 
the devil.” 

The proposal was accepted. “Look out, 
Satan!” continued the notary, speaking .at a 
chink in the door. “ If you promise not to 
move, we will open the door.” 

The door was opened. 

“Cross yourself!” exclaimed the headman, 
looking round him for a safe place of retreat in 
case of necessity. 

His sister-in-law crossed herself. 

‘ ‘ The deuce! It is really you, sister-in- 
law ! ” 

“ What evil spirit dragged you into this hole, 
friend? ” asked the notary. 


A MAY NIGHT 173 

The headman’s sister related amid sobs how 
the rioters had seized her on the street, and in 
spite of her resistance, pushed her through a 
large window into the hut, on which they had 
closed the shutters. The notary looked and 
found that the bolt of the shutter had been 
wrenched off, and that it was held in its place by 
a wooden bar placed across it outside. 

“You are a nice fellow, you one-eyed 
Satan! ” she now exclaimed, advancing towards 
the headman, who stepped backwards and con¬ 
tinued to contemplate her from head to foot. 
“I know your thoughts; you were glad of an 
opportunity to get me shut up in order to run 
after that petticoat, so that no one could see the 
grey-haired sinner making a fool of himself. 
You think I don’t know how you talked this 
evening with Hanna. Oh, I know everything. 
You must get up earlier if you want to make a 
fool of me, you great stupid! I have endured 
for a long time, but at last don’t take it ill 
if-” 

She made a threatening gesture with her fist, 
and ran away swiftly, leaving the headman quite 
taken aback. 

‘ ‘ The devil really has something to do with 
it! ” he thought, rubbing his bald head. 

“We have him!” now exclaimed the two 
village councillors as they approached. 

“ Whom have you? ” asked the headman. 



174 A MAY NIGHT 

“ The devil in the §heepskin.” 

“Bring him here!” cried the headman, 
seizing the prisoner by the arm. 4 4 Are you 
mad? This is the drunken Kalenik! ” 

“It is witchcraft! He was in our hands, 
your honour! ” replied the village councillors. 
4 4 The rascals were rushing about in the narrow 
side-streets, dancing and behaving like idiots— 
the devil take them! How it was we got hold of 
this fellow instead of him, heaven only knows! ’ ’ 
4 4 In virtue of my authority, and that of the 
village assembly,” said the headman, 44 1 issue 
the order to seize these robbers and other young 
vagabonds which may be met with in the streets, 
and to bring them before me to be dealt with.” 

44 Excuse us, your honour,” answered the 
village councillors, bowing low. 44 If you could 
only see the hideous faces they had; may heaven 
punish us if ever anyone has seen such mis- 
creations since he was born and baptised. These 
devils might frighten one into an illness.” 

4 4 I’ll teach you to be afraid! You won’t 
obey then ? You are certainly in the conspiracy 
with them! You mutineers! What is the 
meaning of that? What? You abet robbery 
and murder! You!—I will inform the Com¬ 
missary. Go at once, do you hear; fly like birds. 

I shall—you will-” 

They all dispersed in different directions. 



A MAY NIGHT 


175 


V 

THE DROWNED GIRL 

Without troubling himself in the least about 
those who had been sent to pursue him, the 
originator of all this confusion slowly walked 
towards the old house and the pool. We hardly 
need to say it was Levko. His black fur coat 
was buttoned up; he carried his cap in his hand, 
and the perspiration was pouring down his face. 
The moon poured her light on the gloomy majesty 
of the dark maple-wood. 

The coolness of the air round the motionless 
pool enticed the weary wanderer to rest by it s 
while. Universal silence prevailed, only that in 
the forest thickets the nightingales’ songs were 
heard. An overpowering drowsiness closed his 
eyes; his tired limbs relaxed, and his head 
nodded. 

“Ah! am I going to sleep? ” he said, rising 
and rubbing his eyes. 

He looked round; the night seemed to him still 
more beautiful. The moonlight seemed to have 
an intoxicating quality about it, a glamour which 
he had never perceived before. The landscape 
was veiled in a silver mist. The air was redolent 
with the perfume of the apple-blossoms and 


176 


A MAY NIGHT 

the night-flowers. Entranced, he gazed on the 
motionless pool. The old, half-ruined house 
was clearly reflected without a quiver in the 
water. But instead of dark shutters, he saw 
light streaming from brilliantly lit windows. 
Presently one of them opened. Holding his 
breath, and without moving a muscle, he fas¬ 
tened his eyes on the pool and seemed to pene¬ 
trate its depths. What did he see? First he saw 
at the window a graceful, curly head with shining 
eyes, propped on a white arm; the head moved 
and smiled. His heart suddenly began to beat. 
The water began to break into ripples, and the 
window closed. 

Quietly he withdrew from the pool, and looked 
towards the house. The dark shutters were 
flung back; the window-panes gleamed in the 
moonlight. “ How little one can believe what 
people say!” he thought to himself. “The 
house is bran-new, and looks as though it 
had only just been painted. It is certainly 
inhabited.” 

He stepped nearer cautiously, but the house 
was quite silent. The clear song of the nightin¬ 
gales rose powerfully and distinctly on the air, 
and as they died away one heard the chirping 
and rustling of the grasshoppers, and the 
marshbird clapping his slippery beak in the 
water. 

Levko felt enraptured with the sweetness and 


A MAY NIGHT 177 

stillness of the night. He struck the strings of 
his guitar and sang : 

“ Oh lovely moon 

Thou steepst in light 
The house where my darling 
Sleeps all night. 5 ’ 

A window opened gently, and the same girl 
whose image he had seen in the pool looked out 
and listened attentively to the song. Her long- 
lashed eyelids were partly drooping over her 
eyes; she was as pale as the moonlight, but 
wonderfully beautiful. She smiled, and a shiver 
ran through Levko. 

“ Sing me a song, young Cossack! ” she said 
gently, bending her head sideways and quite 
closing her eyes. 

“ What song shall I sing you, dear girl? ” 

Tears rolled down her pale cheeks. 
“Cossack,” she said, and there was something 
inexpressibly touching in her tone, “Cossack, 
find my stepmother for me. I will do everything 
for you; I will reward you; I will give you 
abundant riches. I have armlets embroidered 
with silk and coral necklaces; I will give you a 
girdle set with pearls. I have gold. Cossack, 
seek my stepmother for me. She is a terrible 
witch; she allowed me no peace in the beautiful 
world. She tortured me; she made me work like 
a common maid-servant. Look at my face; she 

M 


178 A MAY NIGHT 

has banished the redness from my cheeks with 
her unholy magic. Look at my white neck; they 
cannot be washed away, they cannot be washed 
away—the blue marks of her iron claws. Look 
at my white feet; they did not walk on carpets, 
but on hot sand, on damp ground, on piercing 
thorns. And my eyes—look at them; they are 
almost blind with weeping. Seek my step¬ 
mother ! ” 

Her voice, which had gradually become louder, 
stopped, and she wept. 

The Cossack felt overpowered by sympathy and 
grief. “I am ready to do everything to please 
you, dear lady,” he cried with deep emotion; 
“ but where and how can I find her? ” 

“Look, look!” she said quickly, “ she is 
here! She dances on the lake-shore with my 
maidens, and warms herself in the moonlight. 
Yet she is cunning and sly. She has assumed the 
shape of one who is drowned, yet I know and 
hear that she is present. I am so afraid of her. 
Because of her I cannot swim free and light as a 
fish. I sink and fall to the bottom like a piece 
of iron. Look for her, Cossack! 

Levko cast a glance at the lake-shore. In a 
silvery mist there moved, like shadows, girls in 
white dresses decked with May flowers; gold 
necklaces and coins gleamed on their necks; but 
they were very pale, as though formed of trans¬ 
parent clouds. They danced nearer him, and he 


A MAY NIGHT 179 

could hear their voices, somewhat like the sound 
of reeds stirred in the quiet evening by the 
breeze. 

"Let us play the raven-game! Let uS play 
the raven-game! ” 

“ Who Fill be the raven? ” 

Lots were cast, and a girl stepped out of the 
line of the dancers. 

Levko observed her attentively. Her face and 
clothing resembled those of the others; but she 
was evidently unwilling to play the part assigned 
her. The dancers revolved rapidly round her, 
without her being able to catch one of 
them. 

“No, I won’t be the raven any more,’ 2 she 
said, quite exhausted. “ I do not like to rob the 
poor mother-hen of her chickens.” 

“You are not a witch,” thought Levko. 

The girls again gathered together in order to 
cast lots who should be the raven. 

“I will be the raven! ” called one from the 
midst. 

Levko watched her closely. Boldly and 
rapidly she ran after the dancers, and made every 
effort to catch her prey. Levko began to notice 
that her body was not transparent like the 
others; there was something black in the midst 
of it. Suddenly there was a cry; the “ raven ” 
had rushed on a girl, embraced her, and it 
seemed to Levko as though she had stretched out 


180 A MAY NIGHT 

claws, and as though her face shone with 
malicious joy. 

“Witch!” he cried out, pointing at her 
suddenly with his finger, and turning towards the 
house. 

The girl at the window laughed, and the 
other girls dragged the ‘‘raven” screaming 
along with them. 

“How shall I reward you, Cossack?” said 
the maiden. “I know you do not need gold; 
you love Hanna, but her harsh father will not 
allow you to marry. But give him this note, and 
he will cease to hinder it.” 

She stretched out her white hand, and her face 
shone wonderfully. With strange shudders and 
a beating heart, he grasped the paper and— 
awoke. 


VI 

THE AWAKENING 

“Have I then been really asleep? >l Levko 
asked himself as he stood up. “Everything 
seemed so real, as though I were awake. Won¬ 
derful! Wonderful!” he repeated, looking 
round him. The position of the moon vertical 
overhead showed that it was midnight; a waft of 
coolness came from the pool. The ruined house 


A MAY NIGHT 181 

with the closed shutters stood there with a 
melancholy aspect; the moss and weeds which 
grew thickly upon it showed that it had not been 
entered by any human foot for a long time. 
Then he suddenly opened his hand, which had 
been convulsively clenched during his sleep, and 
cried aloud with astonishment when he saw the 
note in it. “Ah! if I could only read,” he 
thought, turning it this way and that. At that 
moment he heard a noise behind him. 

“Fear nothing! Lay hold of him! What 
are you afraid of? There are ten of us. I 
wager that he is a man, and not the devil.” 

It was the headman encouraging his com¬ 
panions. 

Levko felt himself seized by several arms, 
many of which were trembling with fear. 

‘ ‘ Throw off your mask, friend! Cease trying 
to fool us,” said the headman, taking him by 
the collar. But he started back when he saw 
him closely. “Levko! My son!” he ex¬ 
claimed, letting his arms sink. “It is you, 
miserable boy! I thought some rascal, or dis¬ 
guised devil, was playing these tricks; but now 
it seems you have cooked this mess for your own 
father—placed yourself at the head of a band 
of robbers, and composed songs to ridicule 
him. Eh, Levko! What is the meaning of 
that? It seems your back is itching. Tie him 
fast! ” 


182 


A MAY NIGHT 

“ Stop, father! I have been ordered to give 
you this note,” said Levko. 

“ Let me see it then! But bind him all the 
same.” 

“Wait, headman,” said the notary, unfolding 
the note; “it is the Commissary’s hand¬ 
writing ! ” 

■“ The Commissary’s? ” 

“The Commissary’s?” echoed the village 
councillors mechanically. 

“The Commissary’s? Wonderful! Still 
more incomprehensible! ” thought Levko. 

“Bead! Read! ” said the headman. “ What 
does the Commissary write?” 

“Let us hear!” exclaimed the distiller, 
holding his pipe between his teeth, and light¬ 
ing it. 

The notary cleared his throat and began to 
read. 

“ ‘ Order to the headman, Javtuk Mako- 

HONENKO. 

“ ‘ It has been brought to our knowledge that 
you, old id--’ ” 

“Stop! Stop! That is unnecessary!” ex¬ 
claimed the headman. “Even if I have not 
heard it, I know that that is not the chief matter. 
Read further! ’’ 

-“ ‘ Consequently I order you at once to marry 



A MAY NIGHT 183 

your son, Levko Makohonenko, to the Cossack’s 
daughter, Hanna Petritchenka, to repair the 
bridges on the post-road, and to give no horses 
belonging to the lords of the manor to the 
county-court magistrates without my knowledge. 
If on my arrival I do not find these orders carried 
out, I shall hold you singly responsible. 

“ ‘ Lieut. Kosma Derkatch-Drischpanowski, 

“ - Commissary .’ ” 

“There we have it!” exclaimed the head¬ 
man, with his mouth open. “ Have you heard 
it? The headman is made responsible for every¬ 
thing, and therefore everyone has to obey him 
without contradiction! Otherwise, I beg to resign 
my office. And you,” he continued, turning to 
Levko, “ I will have married^ as the Commissary 
directs, though it seems to me strange how he 
knows of the affair; but you will get a taste of my 
knout first—the one, you know, which hangs on 
the wall at my bed-head. But how did you get 
hold of the note? ” 

Levko, in spite of the astonishment which the 
unexpected turn of affairs caused him, had had 
the foresight to prepare an answer, and to con¬ 
ceal the way in which the note had come into 
his possession. “ I was in the town last night,’’ 
he said, “ and met the Commissary just as 
he was alighting from his droshky. When he 
heard from which village I was he gave me the 



184 


A MAY NIGHT 


note and bid me tell you by word of mouth, 
father, that he would dine with us on his way 
back.” 

•“ Did he say that? ” 

‘-‘Yes.” 

“ Have you heard it? ” said the headman, 
with a solemn air turning to his companions. 
“The Commissary himself, in his own person, 
comes to us, that is to me, to dine.” The 
headman lifted a finger and bent his head as 
though he were listening to something. “ The 
Commissary, do you hear, the Commissary is 
coming to dine with me! What do you think, 
Mr Notary? And what do you think, friend? 
That is not a little honour, is it? ” 

“ As far as I can recollect,” the notary broke 
in, “ no Commissary has ever dined with a 
headman.” 

“ All headmen are not alike,” he answered 
with a self-satisfied air. Then he uttered a 
hoarse laugh and said, •“ What do you think, 
Mr Notary? Isn’t it right to order that in 
honour of the distinguished guest, a fowl, linen, 
and other things should be offered by every 
cottage? ” 

Yes, they should.” 

“And when is the wedding to be, father?” 
asked Levko. 

“ Wedding! I should like to celebrate your 
wedding in my way! Well, in honour of the 



A MAY NIGHT 185 

distinguished guest, to-morrow the pope 1 will 
marry you. Let the Commissary see that you 
are punctual. Now, children, we will go to bed. 
Go to your houses. The present occasion 

reminds me of the time when I-” At these 

words the headman assumed his customary 
solemn air. 

“Now the headman will relate how he accom¬ 
panied the Czarina! ” said Levko to himself, and 
hastened quickly, and full of joy, to the cherry- 
tree-shaded house, which we know. “ May God 
bless you, beloved, and the holy angels smile 
on you. To no one will I relate the wonders of 
this night except to you, Hanna; you alone will 
believe it, and pray with me for the repose of the 
souls of the poor drowned maidens.” 

He approached the house; the window was 
open; the moonbeams fell on Hanna, who was 
sleeping by it. Her head was supported on her 
arm; her cheeks glowed; her lips moved, gently 
murmuring his name. 

“ Sleep sweetly, my darling. Dream of 
everything that is good, and yet the awaking will 
surpass all.” He made the sign of the cross 
over her, closed the window, and gently with¬ 
drew. 

In a few moments the whole village was buried 
in slumber. Only the moon hung as brilliant 
and wonderful as before in the immensity of 
1 Village priest. 




186 A MAY NIGHT 

the Ukraine sky. The divine night continued 
her reign in solemn stillness, while the earth 
lay bathed in silvery radiance. The universal 
silence wa9 only broken here and there by the 
bark of a dog; only the drunken Kalenik still 
wandered about the empty Streets seeking for his 
house. 


THE VIY 

(The “ Viy ” is a monstrous creation of popular 
fancy. It is the name which the inhabitants of 
Little Russia give to the king of the gnomes, whose 
eyelashes reach to the ground. The following story 
is a specimen of such folk-lore. I have made no 
alterations, but reproduce it in the same simple form 
in which I heard it.— Author’s Note.) 

I 

As soon as the clear seminary bell began 
sounding in Kieff in the morning, the pupils 
would come flocking from all parts of the town. 
The students of grammar, rhetoric, philosophy, 
and theology hastened with their books under 
their arms over the streets. 

The “grammarians” were still mere boys. 
On the way they pushed against each other and 
quarrelled with shrill voices. Nearly all of them 
wore torn or dirty clothes, and their pockets were 
always crammed with all kinds of things—push- 
bones, pipes made out of pens, remains of con¬ 
fectionery, and sometimes even young Sparrows. 
The latter would sometimes begin to chirp in the 
midst of deep silence in the school, and bring 

187 



188 THE VIY 

down on their possessors severe canings and 
thrashings. 

The “ rhetoricians ” walked in a more orderly 
;way. Their clothes were generally untorn, but 
on the other hand their faces were often 
strangely decorated; one had a black eye, and 
the lips of another resembled a single blister, 
etc. These spoke to each other in tenor 
voice?. 

The “philosophers” talked in a tone an 
octave lower; in their pockets they only had 
fragments of tobacco, never whole cakes of it; 
for what they could get hold of, they used at 
once. They smelt so strongly of tobacco and 
brandy, that a workman passing by them would 
often remain standing and sniffing with his nose 
in the air, like a hound. 

About this time of day the market-place was 
generally full of bustle, and the market women, 
selling rolls, cakes, and honey-tarts, plucked the 
sleeves of those who wore coats of fine cloth or 
cotton. 

“Young sir! Young sir! Here! Here!” 
they cried from all sides. “Rolls and cakes 
and tasty tarts, very delicious! I have baked 
them myself! ” 

Another drew something long and crooked 
out of her basket and cried, “ Here is a sausage, 
young sir! Buy a sausage! ” 

“Don’t buy anything from her!” cried a 


THE VIY 189 

rival. “ See how greasy she is, and what a 
dirty nose and hands she has! ” 

But the market women carefully avoided 
appealing to the philosophers and theologians, 
for these only took handfuls of eatables merely 
to taste them. 

Arrived at the seminary, the whole crowd of 
students dispersed into the low, large class¬ 
rooms with small windows, broad doors, and 
blackened benches. Suddenly they were filled 
with a many-toned murmur. The teachers 
heard the pupils’ lessons repeated, some in shrill 
and others in deep voices which sounded like a 
distant booming. While the lessons were being 
said, the teachers kept a sharp eye open to see 
whether pieces of cake or other dainties were 
protruding from their pupils’ pockets; if so, they 
were promptly confiscated. 

When this learned crowd arrived somewhat 
earlier than usual, or when it was known that the 
teachers would come somewhat late, a battle 
would ensue, as though planned by general 
agreement. In this battle all had to take part, 
even the monitors who were appointed to look 
after the order and morality of the whole school. 
Two theologians generally arranged the condi¬ 
tions of the battle: whether each class should 
split into two sides, or whether all the pupils 
should divide themselves into two halves. 

In each case the grammarians began the battle, 


190 


THE VIY 

and after the rhetoricians had joined in, the 
former retired and stood on the benches, in order 
to watch the fortunes of the fray. Then came 
the philosophers with long black moustaches, and 
finally the thick-necked theologians. The battle 
generally ended in a victory for the latter, 
and the philosophers retired to the different 
class-rooms rubbing their aching limbs, and 
throwing themselves on the benches to take 
breath. 

When the teacher, who in his own time had 
taken part in such contests, entered the class¬ 
room he saw by the heated faces of his pupils that 
the battle had been very severe, and while he 
caned the hands of the rhetoricians, in another 
room another teacher did the same for the 
philosophers. 

On Sundays and Festival Days the seminarists 
took puppet-theatres to the citizens’ houses. 
Sometimes they acted a comedy, and in that case 
it was always a theologian who took the part of 
the hero or heroine—Potiphar or Herodias, etc. 
As a reward for their exertions, they received a 
piece of linen, a sack of maize, half a roast 
goose, or something similar. All the students, 
lay and clerical, were very poorly provided with 
means for procuring themselves necessary sub¬ 
sistence, but at the same time very fond of 
eating; so that, however much food was given 
to them, they were never satisfied, and the 


THE VIY 191 

gifts bestowed by rich landowners were never 
adequate for their needs. 

Therefore the Commissariat Committee, con¬ 
sisting of philosophers and theologians, some¬ 
times dispatched the grammarians and rhetori¬ 
cians under the leadership of a philosopher— 
themselves sometimes joining in the expedition— 
with sacks on their shoulders, into the town, in 
order to levy a contribution on the fleshpots of 
the citizens, and then there was a feast in the 
seminary. 

The most important event in the seminary year 
was the arrival of the holidays; these began in 
July, and then generally all the students went 
home. At that time all the roads were thronged 
with grammarians, rhetoricians, philosophers, 
and theologians. He who had no home of his own, 
would take up his quarters with some fellow- 
student’s family; the philosophers and theo¬ 
logians looked out for tutors’ posts, taught the 
children of rich farmers, and received for doing 
so a pair of new boots and sometimes also a new 
coat, 

A whole troop of them would go off in close 
ranks like a regiment; they cooked their porridge 
in common, and encamped under the open sky. 
Each had a bag with him containing a shirt and 
a pair of socks. The theologians were especially 
economical; in order not to wear out their boots 
too quickly, they took them off and carried them 


192 


THE VIY 

on a stick over their shoulders, especially when 
the road was very muddy. Then they tucked 
up their breeches over their knees and waded 
bravely through the pools and puddles. When¬ 
ever they spied a village near the highway, they 
at once left it, approached the house which 
seemed the most considerable, and began with 
loud voices to sing a psalm. The master of the 
house, an old Cossack engaged in agriculture, 
would listen for a long time with his head propped 
in his hands, then with tears on his cheeks say 
to his wife, “What the students are singing 
sounds very devout; bring out some lard and 
anything else of the kind we have in the house.” 

After thus replenishing their stores, the 
students would continue their way. The farther 
they went, the smaller grew their numbers, as 
they dispersed to their various houses, and left 
those whose homes were still farther on. 

On one occasion, during such a march, three 
students left the main-road in order to get 
provisions in some village, since their stock had 
long been exhausted. This party consisted of 
the theologian Khalava, the philosopher Thomas 
Brutus, and the rhetorician Tiberius Gorobetz. 

The first was a tall youth with broad shoulders 
and of a peculiar character; everything which 
came within reach of his fingers he felt obliged 
to appropriate. Moreover, he was of a very 
melancholy disposition, aud when he had got 


THE VIY 193 

intoxicated he hid himself in the most tangled 
thickets so that the seminary officials had the 
greatest trouble in finding him. 

The philosopher Thomas Brutus was a more 
cheerful character. He liked to lie for a long 
time on the same spot and smoke his pipe; and 
when he was merry with wine, he hired a fiddler 
and danced the “ tropak.” Often he got a 
whole quantity of “beans,” i.e. thrashings; 
but these he endured with complete philosophic 
calm, saying that a man cannot escape his 
destiny. 

The rhetorician Tiberius Gorobetz had not yet 
the right to wear a moustache, to drink brandy, 
or to smoke tobacco. He only wore a small crop 
of hair, as though his character was at present 
too little developed. To judge by the great 
bumps on his forehead, with which he often 
appeared in the class-room, it might be expected 
that some day he would be a valiant fighter. 
Khalava and Thomas often pulled his hair as a 
mark of their special favour, and sent him on 
their errands. 

Evening had already come when they left the 
high-road; the sun had just gone down, and the 
air was still heavy with the heat of the day. The 
theologian and the philosopher strolled along, 
smoking in silence, while the rhetorician struck 
off the heads of the thistles by the wayside with 
his stick. The way wound on through thick 

N 


194 THE VIY 

woods of oak and walnut; green hills alternated 
here and there with meadows. Twice already 
they had seen cornfields, from which they con¬ 
cluded that they were near some village; but an 
hour had already passed, and no human habita¬ 
tion appeared. The sky was already quite dark, 
and only a red gleam lingered on the western 
horizon. 

“The deuce! ” said the philosopher Thomas 
Brutus. “ I was almost certain we would soon 
reach a village.” , 

The theologian still remained silent, looked 
round him, then put his pipe again between his 
teeth, and all three continued their way. 

“ Good heavens! ” exclaimed the philosopher, 
and stood still. “Now the road itself is dis¬ 
appearing.” 

“Perhaps we shall find a farm farther on,” 
answered the theologian, without taking his pipe 
out of his mouth. 

Meanwhile the night had descended; clouds 
increased the darkness, and according to all 
appearance there was no chance of moon or stars 
appearing. The seminarists found that they had 
lost the way altogether. 

After the philosopher had vainly sought for a 
footpath, he exclaimed, ‘ ‘ Where have we got 
to?” 

The theologian thought for a while, and said, 
“ Yes, it is really dark.” 


THE VIY 


195 

The rhetorician went on one side, lay on the 
ground, and groped for a path; but his hands 
encountered only fox-holes. All around lay a 
huge steppe over which no one seemed to have 
passed. The wanderers made several efforts to 
get forward, but the landscape grew wilder and 
more inhospitable. 

The philosopher tried to shout, but his voice 
was lost in vacancy, no one answered; only, some 
moments later, they heard a faint groaning 
sound, like the whimpering of a wolf. 

“ Curse it all! What shall we do? ” said the 
philosopher. 

“ Why, just stop here, and spend the night in 
the open air,” answered the theologian. So 
saying, he felt in his pocket, brought out his 
timber and steel, and lit his pipe. 

But the philosopher could not agree with this 
proposal; he was not accustomed to sleep till he 
had first eaten five pounds of bread and five of 
dripping, and so he now felt an intolerable 
emptiness in his stomach. Besides, in spite of 
his cheerful temperament, he was a little afraid 
of the wolves. 

“No, Khalava,” he said, “that won’t do. 
To lie down like a dog and without any supper! 
Let us try once more; perhaps we shall find a 
house, and the consolation of having a glass of 
brandy to drink before going to sleep.” 

At the word “ brandy,” the theologian spat 


196 


THE VIY 

on one side and said, “ Yes, of course, we can¬ 
not remain all night in the open air.” 

The students went on and on, and to their great 
joy they heard the barking of dogs in the dis¬ 
tance. After listening a while to see from which 
direction the barking came, they went on their 
way with new courage, and soon espied a light. 

“A village, by heavens, a village!” ex¬ 
claimed the philosopher. 

His supposition proved correct; they soon saw 
two or three houses built round a court-yard. 
Lights glimmered in the windows, and before 
the fence stood a number of trees. The students 
looked through the crevices of the gates and saw 
a court-yard in which stood a large number of 
roving tradesmen’s carts. In the sky there were 
now fewer clouds, and here and there a star was 
visible. 

“ See, brother! ” one of them said, “ we must 
now cry ‘ halt! ’ Cost what it may, we must find 
entrance and a night’s lodging.” 

The three students knocked together at the 
gate, and cried “ Open! ” 

The door of one of the houses creaked on its 
hinges, and an old woman wrapped in a sheepskin 
appeared. “Who is there?” she exclaimed, 
coughing loudly. 

‘ ‘ Let us spend the night here, mother; we 
have lost our way, our stomachs are empty, and 
we do not want to spend the night out of doors.” 


197 


THE VIY 

“ But what sort of people are you? ” 

Quite harmless people; the theologian 
Khalava, the philosopher Brutus, and the 
rhetorician Gorobetz.” 

“It is impossible,” answered the old woman. 
“ The whole house is full of people, and every 
corner occupied. Where can I put you up? 
You are big and heavy enough to break the house 
down. I know these philosophers and theolo¬ 
gians ; when once one takes them in, they eat one 
out of house and home. Go farther on! There 
is no room here for you! ” 

“Have pity on us, mother! How can you be 
so heartless? Don’t let Christians perish. Put 
us up where you like, and if we eat up your pro¬ 
visions, or do any other damage, may our hands 
wither up, and all the punishment of heaven light 
on us! ” 

The old woman seemed a little touched. 
“ Well,” she said after a few moments’ con¬ 
sideration, ‘ ‘ I will let you in; but I must put you 
in different rooms, for I should have no quiet if 
you were all together at night.” 

“ Do just as you like; we won’t say any more 
about it,” answered the students. 

The gates moved heavily on their hinges, and 
they entered the court-yard. 

“Well now, mother,” said the philosopher, 
following the old woman, “if you had a little 
scrap of something! By heavens! my stomach 


198 THE VIY 

is as empty as a drum. I have not had a bit of 
bread in my mouth since early this morning! ’ ’ 

“Didn’t I say so?” replied the old woman. 
“ There you go begging at once. But I have no 
food in the house, nor any fire.” 

“ But we will pay for everything,” continued 
the philosopher. 

“We will pay early to-morrow in cash.” 

“Go on and be content with what you get. 
You are fine fellows whom the devil has brought 
here! ” 

Her reply greatly depressed the philosopher 
Thomas; but suddenly his nose caught the odour 
of dried fish; he looked at the breeches of the 
theologian, who walked by his side, and saw a 
huge fish’s tail sticking out of his pocket. The 
latter had already seized the opportunity to steal 
a whole fish from one of the carts standing in the 
court-yard. He had not done this from hunger 
so much as from the force of habit. He had 
quite forgotten the fish, and was looking about 
to see whether he could not find something else 
to appropriate. Then the philosopher put his 
hand in the theologian’s pocket as though it were 
his own, and laid hold of his prize. 

The old woman found a special resting-place 
for each student; the rhetorician she put in a 
shed, the theologian in an empty store-room, and 
the philosopher in a sheep’s stall. 

4s soon as the philosopher was alone, he 


THE VIY 199 

devoured the fish in a twinkling, examined the 
fence which enclosed the stall, kicked away a 
pig from a neighbouring stall, which had in¬ 
quiringly inserted its nose through a crevice, 
and lay down on his right side to sleep like a 
corpse. 

Then the low door opened, and the old woman 
came crouching into the stall. 

“Well, mother, what do you want here?” 
asked the philosopher. 

She made no answer, but came with out¬ 
stretched arms towards him. 

The philosopher shrank back; but she still 
approached, as though she wished to lay hold of 
him. A terrible fright seized him, for he saw 
the old hag’s eyes sparkle in an extraordinary 
way. “Away with you, old witch, away with 
you! ” he shouted. But she still stretched her 
hands after him. 

He jumped up in order to rush out, but she 
placed herself before the door, fixed her glowing 
eyes upon him, and again approached him. The 
philosopher tried to push her away with his 
hands, but to his astonishment he found that he 
could neither lift his hands nor move his legs, 
nor utter an audible word. He only heard his 
heart beating, and saw the old woman approach 
him, place his hands crosswise on his breast, and 
bend his head down. Then with the agility of 
a cat she sprang on his shoulders, struck him on 


200 


THE VIY 

the side with a broom, and he began to run like 
a race-horse, carrying her on his shoulders. 

All this happened with such swiftness, that the 
philosopher could scarcely collect his thoughts. 
He laid hold of his knees with both hands in 
order to stop his legs from running; but to his 
great astonishment they kept moving forward 
against his will, making rapid springs like a 
Caucasian horse. 

Not till the house had been left behind them 
and a wide plain stretched before them, bordered 
on one side by a black gloomy wood, did he say 
to himself, “ Ah! it is a witch! ” 

The half-moon shone pale and high in the sky. 
Its mild light, still more subdued by intervening 
clouds, fell like a transparent veil on the earth. 
Woods, meadows, hills, and valleys—all seemed 
to be sleeping with open eyes; nowhere was a 
breath of air stirring. The atmosphere was moist 
and warm; the shadows of the trees and bushes 
fell sharply defined on the sloping plain. Such 
was the night through which the philosopher 
Thomas Brutus sped with his strange rider. 

A strange, oppressive, and yet sweet sensa¬ 
tion took possession of his heart. He looked 
down and saw how the grass beneath his feet 
seemed to be quite deep and far away; over it 
there flowed a flood of crystal-clear water, and 
the grassy plain looked like the bottom of a trans¬ 
parent sea. He saw his own image, and that 


THE VIY 201 

of the old woman whom he carried on his back, 
clearly reflected in it. Then he beheld how, 
instead of the moon, a strange sun shone there; 
he heard the deep tones of bells, and saw them 
swinging. He saw a water-nixie rise from a bed 
of tall reeds; she turned to him, and her face 
was clearly visible, and she sang a song which 
penetrated his soul; then she approached him 
and nearly reached the surface of the water, on 
which she burst into laughter and again dis¬ 
appeared. 

Did he see it or did he not see it? Was he 
dreaming or was he awake ? But what was that 
below—wind or music? It sounded and drew 
nearer, and penetrated his soul like a song that 
rose and fell. “ What is it? ” he thought as he 
gazed into the depths, and still sped rapidly along. 

The perspiration flowed from him in streams; 
he experienced simultaneously a strange feeling 
of oppression and delight in all his being. Often 
he felt as though he had no longer a heart, and 
pressed his hand on his breast with alarm. 

Weary to death, he began to repeat all the 
prayers which he knew, and all the formulas 
of exorcism against evil spirits. Suddenly he 
experienced a certain relief. He felt that his 
pace was slackening; the witch weighed less 
heavily on his shoulders, and the thick herbage 
of the plain was again beneath his feet, with 
nothing especial to remark about it. 


202 


THE VIY 

‘ ‘ Splendid! ’ ’ thought the philosopher 
Thomas, and began to repeat his exorcisms in a 
still louder voice. 

Then suddenly he wrenched himself away from 
under the witch, and sprang on her back in his 
turn. She began to run, with short, trembling 
steps indeed, but so rapidly that he could hardly 
breathe. So swiftly did she run that she hardly 
seemed to touch the ground. They were still on 
the plain, but owing to the rapidity of their 
flight everything seemed indistinct and confused 
before his eyes. He seized a stick that was 
lying on the ground, and began to belabour the 
hag with all his might. She uttered a wild cry, 
which at first sounded raging and threatening; 
then it became gradually weaker and more 
gentle, till at last it sounded quite low like the 
pleasant tones of a silver bell, so that it pene¬ 
trated his innermost soul. Involuntarily the 
thought passed through his mind : 

“ Is she really an old woman? ” 

“Ah! I can go no farther,” she said in a 
faint voice, and sank to the earth. 

He knelt beside her, and looked in her eyes. 
The dawn was red in the sky, and in the distance 
glimmered the gilt domes of the churches of Kieff. 
Before him lay a beautiful maiden with thick, 
dishevelled hair and long eyelashes. Uncon¬ 
sciously she had stretched out her white, bare 
arms, and her tear-filled eyes gazed at the sky. 


THE VIY 203 

Thomas trembled like an aspen-leaf. Sym¬ 
pathy, and a strange feeling of excitement, and a 
hitherto unknown fear overpowered him. He 
began to run with all his might. His heart beat 
violently, and he could not explain to himself 
what a strange, new feeling had seized him. He 
did not wish to return to the village, but hastened 
towards Kieff, thinking all the way as he went 
of his weird, unaccountable adventure. 

There were hardly any students left in the 
town; they were all scattered about the country, 
and had either taken tutors’ posts or simply lived 
without occupation; for, at the farms in Little 
Russia one can live comfortably and at ease with¬ 
out paying a farthing. The great half-decayed 
building in which the seminary was established 
was completely empty; and however much the 
philosopher searched in all its corners for a piece 
of lard and bread, he could not find even one 
of the hard biscuits which the seminarists were in 
the habit of hiding. 

But the philosopher found a means of extri¬ 
cating himself from his difficulties by making 
friends with a certain young widow in the market¬ 
place who sold ribbons, etc. The same evening 
he found himself being stuffed with cakes and 
fowl; in fact it is impossible to say how many 
things were placed before him on a little table 
in an arbour shaded by cherry-trees. 

Eatef on the same evening the philosopher was 


204 


THE VIY 

to be seen in an ale-house. He lay on a bench, 
smoked his pipe in his usual way, and threw the 
Jewish publican a gold piece. He had a jug of 
ale standing before him, looked on all who went 
in and out in a cold-blooded, self-satisfied way, 
and thought no more of his strange adventure. 


About this time a report spread about that the 
daughter of a rich colonel, whose estate lay about 
fifty versts distant from Kieff, had returned home 
one day from a walk in a quite broken-down con¬ 
dition. She had scarcely enough strength to 
reach her father’s house; now she lay dying, and 
had expressed a wish that for three days after 
her death the prayers for the dead should be 
recited by a Kieff seminarist named Thomas 
Brutus. 

This fact was communicated to the philosopher 
by the rector of the seminary himself, who sent 
for him to his room and told him that he must 
start at once, as a rich colonel had sent his 
servants and a kibitka for him. The philosopher 
trembled, and was seized by an uncomfortable 
feeling which he could not define. He had a 
gloomy foreboding that some evil was about to 
befall him. Without knowing why, he declared 
that he did not wish to go. 

“ Listen, Thomas,” said the rector, who 
under certain circumstances spoke very politely 


THE VIY 205 

to his pupils; “I have no idea of asking you 
whether you wish to go or not. I only tell you 
that if you think of disobeying, I will have you 
so soundly flogged on the back with young birch- 
rods, that you need not think of having a bath 
for a long time.” 

The philosopher scratched the back of his 
head, and went out silently, intending to make 
himself scarce at the first opportunity. Lost in 
thought, he descended the steep flight of steps 
which led to the court-yard^ thickly planted 
with poplars; there he remained standing for a 
moment, and heard quite distinctly the rector 
giving orders in a loud voice to his steward, 
and to another person, probably one of the 
messengers sent by the colonel. 

“ Thank your master for the peeled barley and 
the eggs,” said the rector; “and tell him that 
as soon as the books which he mentions in his 
note are ready, I will send them. I have already 
given them to a clerk to be copied. And don’t 
forget to remind your master that he has some 
excellent fish, especially prime sturgeon, in his 
ponds; he might send me some when he has the 
opportunity, as here in the market the fish 
are bad and dear. And you, Jantukh, give the 
colonel’s man a glass of brandy. And mind you 
tie up the philosopher, or he will show you a 
clean pair of heels.” 

“Listen to the scoundrel!” thought the 


206 THE VIY 

philosopher. “He has smelt a rat, the long- 
legged stork! ” 

He descended into the court-yard and beheld 
there a kibitka, which he at first took for a barn 
on wheels. It was, in fact, as roomy as a kiln, 
so that bricks might have been made inside it. 
It was one of those remarkable Cracow vehicles 
in which Jews travelled from town to town in 
scores, wherever they thought they would find a 
market. Six stout, strong, though somewhat 
eldei'ly Cossacks were standing by it. Their 
gold-braided coats of fine cloth showed that 
their master was rich and of some importance; 
and certain little scars testified to their valour 
on the battle-field. 

“What can I do?” thought the philosopher. 
“ There is no escaping one’s destiny.” So he 
stepped up to the Cossacks and said ‘ ‘ Good day, 
comrades.” 

“Welcome, Mr Philosopher! ” some of them 
answered. 

“Well, I am to travel with you! It is a 
magnificent vehicle,” he continued as he got 
into it. “ If there were only musicians present, 
one might dance in it.” 

“ Yes, it is a roomy carriage,” said one of the 
Cossacks, taking his seat by the coachman. The 
latter had tied a cloth round his head, as he had 
already found an opportunity of pawning his cap 
in the ale-house. The other five, with the 


THE VIY 207 

philosopher, got into the capacious kibitka, and 
sat upon sacks which were filled with all sorts 
of articles purchased in the city. 

“ I should like to know,” said the philosopher, 
“ if this equipage were laden with salt or iron, 
how many horses would be required to draw it? ” 

“Yes,” said the Cossack who sat by the 
coachman, after thinking a short time, “ it would 
require a good many horses.” 

After giving this satisfactory answer, the 
Cossack considered himself entitled to remain 
silent for the whole of the rest of the journey. 

The philosopher would gladly have found out 
who the colonel was, and what sort of a character 
he had. He was also curious to know about his 
daughter, who had returned home in such a 
strange way and now lay dying, and whose 
destiny seemed to be mingled with his own; 
and wanted to know the sort of life that was 
lived in the colonel’s house. But the Cossacks 
were probably philosophers like himself, for in 
answer to his inquiries they only blew clouds of 
tobacco and settled themselves more comfortably 
on their sacks. 

Meanwhile, one of them addressed to the 
coachman on the box a brief command : ‘ ‘ Keep 
your eyes open, Overko, you old sleepy-head, and 
when you come to the ale-house on the road to 
Tchukrailoff, don’t forget to pull up and wake me 
and the other fellows if we are asleep.” Then 


208 


THE YIY 


he began to snore pretty loud. But in any 
case his admonition was quite superfluous; for 
scarcely had the enormous equipage begun to 
approach the aforesaid ale-house, than they all 
cried with one mouth “Halt! Halt! ” Besides 
this, Overko’s horse was accustomed to stop out¬ 
side every inn of its own accord. 

In spite of the intense July heat, they all got 
out and entered a low, dirty room where a Jewish 
innkeeper received them in a friendly way as old 
acquaintances. He brought in the skirt of his 
long coat some sausages, and laid them on the 
table, where, though forbidden by the Talmud, 
they looked very seductive. All sat down at 
table, and it was not long before each of the 
guests had an earthenware jug standing in front 
of him. The philosopher Thomas had to take 
part in the feast, and as the Little Russians when 
they are intoxicated always begin to kiss each 
other or to weep, the whole room soon began to 
echo with demonstrations of affection. 

“ Come here, come here, Spirid, let me 
embrace thee! ” 

“ Come here, Dorosch, let me press you to my 
heart! ” 

One Cossack, with a grey moustache, the 
eldest of them all, leant his head on his hand 
and began to weep bitterly because he was an 
orphan and alone in God’s wide world. Another 
tall, loquacious man did his best to comfort him, 


THE VIY 209 

saying, “Don’t weep, for God’s sake, don’t 
weep! For over there—God knows best.” 

The Cossack who had been addressed as 
Dorosch was full of curiosity, and addressed 
many questions to the philosopher Thomas. “I 
should like to know,” he said, “ what you learn 
in your seminary; do you learn the same things 
as the deacon reads to us in church, or something 
else?” 

“Don’t ask,” said the consoler; “let them 
learn what they like. God knows what is to 
happen; God knows everything.” 

“No, I will know,” answered Dorosch, “I 
will know what is written in their books; perhaps 
it is something quite different from that in the 
deacon’s book.” 

“ 0 good heavens! ” said the other, “ why all 
this talk? It is God’s will, and one cannot 
change God’s arrangements.” 

“ But I will know everything that is written; 
I will enter the seminary too, by heaven I will! 
Do you think perhaps I could not learn? I will 
learn everything, everything.” 

“ Oh, heavens! ” exclaimed the consoler, and 
let his head sink on the table, for he could no 
longer hold it upright. 

The other Cossacks talked about the nobility, 
and why there was a moon in the sky. 

When the philosopher Thomas saw the state 
they were in, he determined to profit by it, and 

o 


210 


THE VIY 

to make his escape. In the first place he turned 
to the grey-headed Cossack, who was lamenting 
the loss of his parents. “ But, little uncle,” he 
said to him, “ why do you weep so? I too am 
an orphan! Let me go, children; why do you 
want me?” 

“ Let him go! ” said some of them, “he is 
an orphan, let him go where he likes.” 

They were about to take him outside them¬ 
selves, when the one who had displayed a special 
thirst for knowledge, stopped them, saying, “ No, 
I want to talk with him about the seminary; I am 
going to the seminary myself.” 

Moreover, it was not yet certain whether the 
philosopher could have executed his project of 
flight, for when he tried to rise from his chair, 
he felt as though his feet were made of wood, 
and he began to see such a number of doors lead¬ 
ing out of the room that it would have been 
difficult for him to have found the right one. 

It was not till evening that the company re¬ 
membered that they must continue their journey. 
They crowded into the kibitka, whipped up the 
horses, and struck up a song, the words and sense 
of which were hard to understand. During a 
great part of the night, they wandered about, 
having lost the road which they ought to have 
been able to find blindfolded. At last they drove 
down a steep descent into a valley, and the 
philosopher noticed, by the sides of the road, 


THE VIY 211 

hedges, behind which he caught glimpses of 
small trees and house-roofs. All these belonged 
to the colonel’s estate. 

It was already long past midnight. The sky 
was dark, though little stars glimmered here 
and there; no light was to be seen in any of 
the houses. They drove into a large court-yard, 
while the dogs barked. On all sides were barns 
and cottages with thatched roofs. Just opposite 
the gateway was a house, which was larger than 
the others, and seemed to be the colonel’s dwell¬ 
ing. The kibitka stopped before a small barn, 
and the travellers hastened into it and laid 
themselves down to sleep. The philosopher how¬ 
ever attempted to look at the exterior of the 
house, but, rub his eyes as he might, he could 
distinguish nothing; the house seemed to turn 
into a bear, and the chimney into the rector of 
the seminary. Then he gave it up and lay down 
to sleep. 

When he woke up the next morning, the whole 
house was in commotion; the young lady had 
died during the night. The servants ran hither 
and thither in a distracted state; the old women 
wept and lamented; and a number of curious 
people gazed through the enclosure into the 
court-yard, as though there were something 
special to be seen. The philosopher began now 
to inspect the locality and the buildings, which 
he had not been able to do during the night. 


212 


THE VIY 

The colonel’s house was one of those low, 
small buildings, such as used formerly to be con¬ 
structed in Russia. It was thatched with straw; 
a small, high-peaked gable, with a window 
shaped like an eye, was painted all over with 
blue and yellow flowers and red crescent-moons; 
it rested on little oaken pillars, which were round 
above the middle, hexagonal below, and whose 
capitals were adorned with quaint carvings. 
Under this gable was a small staircase with seats 
at the foot of it on either side. 

The walls of the house were supported by 
similar pillars. Before the house stood a large 
pear-tree of pyramidal shape, whose leaves in¬ 
cessantly trembled. A double row of buildings 
formed a broad street leading up to the colonel’s 
house. Behind the barns near the entrance-gate 
stood two three-cornered wine-houses, also 
thatched with straw; each of the stone walls had 
a door in it, and was covered with all kinds of 
paintings. On one was represented a Cossack 
sitting on a barrel and swinging a large pitcher 
over his head; it bore the inscription ‘ ‘ I will 
drink all that! ” Elsewhere were painted large 
and small bottles, a beautiful girl, a running 
horse, a pipe, and a drum bearing the words 
“ Wine is the Cossack’s joy.” 

In the loft of one of the barns one saw through 
a huge round window a drum and some trumpets. 
At the gate there stood two cannons. All this 


213 


THE VIY 

showed that the colonel loved a cheerful life, and 
the whole place often rang with sounds of merri¬ 
ment. Before the gate were two windmills, and 
behind the house gardens sloped away; through 
the tree-tops the dark chimneys of the peasants’ 
houses were visible. The whole village lay on a 
broad, even plateau, in the middle of a mountain- 
slope which culminated in a steep summit on 
the north side. When seen from below, it 
looked still steeper. Here and there on the top 
the irregular stems of the thick steppe-brooms 
showed in dark relief against the blue sky. The 
bare clay soil made a, melancholy impression, 
worn as it was into deep furrows by rain-water. 
On the same slope there stood two cottages, and 
over one of them a huge apple-tree spread its 
branches; the roots were supported by small 
props, whose interstices were filled with mould. 
The apples, which were blown off by the wind, 
rolled down to the court-yard below. A road 
wound round the mountain to the village. 

When the philosopher looked at this steep 
slope, and remembered his journey of the night 
before, he came to the conclusion that either the 
colonel’s horses were very sagacious, or that the 
Cossacks must have very strong heads, as they 
ventured, even when the worse for drink, on 
such a road with the huge kibitka. 

When the philosopher turned and looked in 
the opposite direction, he saw quite another 


214 THE VIY 

picture. The village reached down to the plain; 
meadows stretched away to an immense distance, 
their bright green growing gradually dark; far 
away, about twenty versts off,' many other vil¬ 
lages were visible. To the right of these meadows 
were chains of hills, and in the remote distance 
one saw the Dnieper shimmer and sparkle like a 
mirror of steel. 

‘ ‘ What a splendid country! 5 ’ said the 
philosopher to himself. “ It must be fine to live 
here! One could catch fish in the Dnieper, and 
in the ponds, and shoot and snare partridges and 
bustards; there must be quantities here. Much 
fruit might be dried here and sold in the town, 
or, better still, brandy might be distilled from it, 
for fruit-brandy is the best of all. But what pre¬ 
vents me thinking of my escape after all? ” 

Behind the hedge he saw a little path which 
was almost entirely concealed by the high grass 
of the steppe. The philosopher approached it 
mechanically, meaning at first to walk a little 
along it unobserved, and then quite quietly to 
gain the open country behind the peasants’ 
houses. Suddenly he felt the pressure of a fairly 
heavy hand on his shoulder. 

Behind him stood the same old Cossack who 
yesterday had so bitterly lamented the death of 
his father and mother, and his own loneliness. 
“You are giving yourself useless trouble, Mr 
Philosopher, if you think you can escape from 


THE VIY 215 

us,” he said. “ One cannot run away here; and 
besides, the roads are too bad for walkers. Come 
to the colonel; he has been waiting for you for 
some time in his room.” 

Yes, of course! What are you talking 
about? I will come with the greatest pleasure,” 
said the philosopher, and followed the Cossack. 

The colonel was an elderly man; his moustache 
was grey, and his face wore the signs of deep sad¬ 
ness. He sat in his room by a table, with his 
head propped on both hands. He seemed about 
five-and-fifty, but his attitude of utter despair, 
and the pallor on his face, showed that his heart 
had been suddenly broken, and that all his former 
cheerfulness had for ever disappeared. 

When Thomas entered with the Cossack, he 
answered their deep bows with a slight inclina¬ 
tion of the head. 

“Who are you, whence do you come, and 
what is your profession, my good man? ” asked 
the colonel in an even voice, neither friendly nor 
austere. 

‘ ‘ I am a student of philosophy; my name is 
Thomas Brutus.” 

“And who was your father?” 

“ I don’t know, sir.” 

“And your mother? ” 

“ I don’t know either; I know that I must have 
had a mother, but who she was, and where she 
lived, by heavens, I do not know.” 



216 


THE VIY 

The colonel was silent, and seemed for a 
moment lost in thought. ‘ ‘ Where did you come 
to know my daughter? ” 

“ I do not know her, gracious sir; I declare I 
do not know her.” 

‘ ‘ Why then has she chosen you, and no one 
else, to offer up prayers for her? ” 

The philosopher shrugged his shoulders. 
“ God only knows. It is a well-known fact that 
grand people often demand things which the 
most learned man cannot comprehend; and does 
not the proverb say, ‘ Dance, devil, as the Lord 
commands! ’ ” 

“ Aren’t you talking nonsense, Mr Philos¬ 
opher? ” 

* ‘ May the lightning strike me on the spot if 
I lie.” 

“ If she had only lived a moment longer,” 
said the colonel sadly, ‘ ‘ then I had certainly 
found out everything. She said, ‘ Let no one 
offer up prayers for me, but send, father, at once 
to the seminary in Kieff for the student Thomas 
Brutus; he shall pray three nights running for 
my sinful soul—he knows.’ But what he really 
knows she never said. The poor dove could 
speak no more, and died. Good man, you are 
probably well known for your sanctity and 
devout life, and she has perhaps heard of you.” 

“ What? Of me?” said the philosopher, and 
took a step backward in amazement. “ I and 


THE VIY 217 

sanctity! ” he exclaimed, and stared at the 
colonel. “God help us, gracious sir! What 
are you saying? It was only last Holy Thursday 
that I paid a visit to the tart-shop.” 

“Well, she must at any rate have had some 
reason for making the arrangement, and you 
must begin your duties to-day.” 

“ I should like to remark to your honour— 
naturally everyone who knows the Holy Scripture 
at all can in his measure—but I believe it would 
be better on this occasion to send for a deacon 
or subdeacon. They are learned people, and 
they know exactly what is to be done. I have 
not got a good voice, nor any official standing.” 

“ You may say what you like, but I shall carry 
out all my dove’s wishes. If you read the prayers 
for her three nights through in the proper way, I 
will reward you; and if not—I advise the devil 
himself not to oppose me! ” 

The colonel spoke the last words in such an 
emphatic way that the philosopher quite under¬ 
stood them. 

“Follow me!” said the colonel. 

They went into the hall. The colonel opened 
a door which was opposite his own. The 
philosopher remained for a few minutes in the 
hall in order to look about him; then he stepped 
over the threshold with a certain nervousness. 

The whole floor of the room was covered with 
red cloth. In a corner under the icons of the 


218 


THE VIY 

saints, on a table covered with a gold-bordered, 
velvet cloth, lay the body of the girl. Tall 
candles, round which were wound branches of 
the “ calina,” stood at her head and feet, and 
burned dimly in the broad daylight. The face 
of the dead was not to be seen, as the incon¬ 
solable father sat before his daughter, with his 
back turned to the philosopher. The words 
which the latter overheard filled him with a 
certain fear: 

“ I do not mourn, my daughter, that in the 
flower of your age you have prematurely left the 
earth, to my grief; but I mourn, my dove, that 
I do not know my deadly enemy who caused your 
death. Had I only known that anyone could 
even conceive the idea of insulting you, or of 
speaking a disrespectful word to you, I swear by 
heaven he would never have seen his children 
again, if he had been as old as myself; nor his 
father and mother, if he had been young. And I 
would have thrown his corpse to the birds of the 
air, and the wild beasts of the steppe. But woe 
is me, my flower, my dove, my light! I will spend 
the remainder of my life without joy, and wipe 
the bitter tears which flow out of my old eyes, 
while my enemy will rejoice and laugh in secret 
over the helpless old man! ” 

He paused, overpowered by grief, and streams 
of tears flowed down his cheeks. 

The philosopher was deeply affected by the 


THE VIY 219 

sight of such inconsolable sorrow. He coughed 
gently in order to clear his throat. The colonel 
turned and signed to him to take his place at the 
head of the dead girl, before a little prayer-desk 
on which some books lay. 

“ I can manage to hold out for three nights,” 
thought the philosopher; “and then the colonel 
will fill both my pockets with ducats.” 

He approached the dead girl, and after cough¬ 
ing once more, began to read, without paying 
attention to anything else, and firmly resolved 
not to look at her face. 

Soon there was deep .silence, and he saw that 
the colonel had left the room. Slowly he turned 
his head in order to look at the corpse. A 
violent shudder thrilled through him; before him 
lay a form of such beauty as is seldom seen 
upon earth. It seemed to him that never in a 
single face had so much intensity of expression 
and harmony of feature been united. Her brow, 
soft as snow and pure as silver, seemed to be 
thinking; the fine, regular eyebrows shadowed 
proudly the closed eyes, whose lashes gently 
rested on her cheeks, which seemed to glow with 
secret longing; her lips still appeared to smile. 
But at the same time he saw something in these 
features which appalled him; a terrible depres¬ 
sion seized his heart, as when in the midst of 
dance and song someone begins to chant a dirge. 
He felt as though those ruby lips were coloured 


220 THE VIY 

with his own heart’s blood. Moreover, her face 
seemed dreadfully familiar. 

“ The witch! ” he cried out in a voice which 
sounded strange to himself; then he turned away 
and began to read the prayers with white cheeks. 
It was the witch whom he had killed. 

II 

When the sun had sunk below the horizon, 
the corpse was carried into the church. The 
philosopher supported one corner of the black- 
draped coffin upon his shoulder, and felt an ice- 
cold shiver run through his body. The colonel 
walked in front of him, with his right hand 
resting on the edge of the coffin. 

The wooden church, black with age and 
overgrown with green lichen, stood quite at the 
end of the village in gloomy solitude; it ; was 
adorned with three round cupolas. One saw at 
the first glance that it had not been used for 
divine worship for a long time. 

Lighted candles were standing before almost 
every icon. The coffin was set down before the 
altar. The old colonel kissed his dead daughter 
once more, and then left the church, together 
with the bearers of the bier, after he had ordered 
his servants to look after the philosopher and to 
take him back to the church after supper. 

The coffin-bearers, when they returned to the 


THE VIY 221 

house, all laid their hands on the stove. This 
custom is always observed in Little Eussia by 
those who have seen a corpse. 

The hunger which the philosopher now began 
to feel caused him for a while to forget the dead 
girl altogether. Gradually all the domestics of 
the house assembled in the kitchen; it was really 
a kind of club, where they were accustomed to 
gather. Even the dogs came to the door, wag¬ 
ging their tails in order to have bones and offal 
thrown to them. 

If a servant was sent on an errand, he always 
found his way into the kitchen to rest there for 
a while, and to smoke a pipe. All the Cossacks 
of the establishment lay here during the whole 
day on and under the benches—in fact, wherever 
a place could be found to lie down in. More¬ 
over, everyone was always leaving something 
behind in the kitchen—his cap, or his whip, or 
something of the sort. But the numbers of the 
club were not complete till the evening, when 
the groom came in after tying up his horses in 
the stable, the cowherd had shut up his cows 
in their stalls, and others collected there who 
were not usually seen in the day-time. During 
supper-time even the tongues of the laziest were 
set in motion. They talked of all and every¬ 
thing—of the new pair of breeches which some¬ 
one had ordered for himself, of what might be 
in the centre of the earth, and of the wolf which 


222 


THE VIY 


someone had seen. There were a number of 
wits in the company—a class which is always 
represented in Little Russia. 

The philosopher took his place with the rest in 
the great circle which sat round the kitchen door 
in the open-air. Soon an old woman with a red 
cap issued from it, bearing with both hands a 
large vessel full of hot “ galuchkis,” which she 
distributed among them. Each drew out of 
his pocket a wooden spoon, or a one-pronged 
wooden fork. As soon as their jaws began to 
move a little more slowly, and their wolfish 
hunger was somewhat appeased, they began to 
talk. The conversation, as might be expected, 
turned on the dead girl. 

“Is it true,” said a young shepherd, “is it 
true—though I cannot understand it—that our 
young mistress had traffic with evil spirits? ” 

“ Who, the young lady? ” answered Dorpsch, 
whose acquaintance the philosopher had already 
made in the kibitka. “Yes, she was a regular 
witch! I can swear that she was a witch! ” 
“Hold your tongue, Dorosch!” exclaimed 
another—the one who, during the journey, had 
played the part of a consoler. “We have 
nothing to do with that. May God be merciful 
to her! One ought not to talk of such things.” 

But Dorosch was not at all inclined to be 
silent; he had just visited the wine-cellar with 
the steward on important business, and having 


THE VIY 223 

stooped two or three times over one or two casks, 
he had returned in a very cheerful and loquacious 
mood. 

“Why do you ask me to be silent?” he 
answered. “ She has ridden on my own shoul¬ 
ders, I swear she has.” 

“Say, uncle,” asked the young shepherd, 
‘ ‘ are there signs by which to recognise a 
sorceress? ” 

“No, there are not,” answered Dorosch; 
“ even if you knew the Psalter by heart, you 
could not recognise one.” 

“ Yes, Dorosch, it is possible; don’t talk such 
nonsense,” retorted the former consoler. “It 
is not for nothing that God has given each some 
special peculiarity; the learned maintain that 
every witch has a little tail.” 

“ Every old woman is a witch,” said a grey¬ 
headed Cossack quite seriously. 

“ Yes, you are a fine lot,” retorted the old 
woman who entered at that moment with a vessel 
full of fresh “ galuchkis.” “ You are great fat 
pigs! ” 

A self-satisfied smile played round the lips of 
the old Cossack whose name was Javtuch, when 
he found that his remark had touched the old 
woman on a tender point. The shepherd burst 
into such a deep and loud explosion of laughter 
as if two oxen were lowing together. 

This conversation excited in the philosopher 


224 


THE VIY 

a great curiosity, and a wish to obtain more 
exact information regarding the colonel’s 
daughter. In order to lead the talk back to the 
subject, he turned to his next neighbour and 
said, “ I should like to know why all the people 
here think that the young lady was a witch. 
Has she done harm to anyone, or killed them by 
witchcraft? ” 

“Yes, there are reports of that kind,” 
answered a man, whose face was as flat as a 
shovel. “ Who does not remember the hunts¬ 
man Mikita, or the-” 

‘ ‘ What has the huntsman Mikita got to do 
with it? ” asked the philosopher. 

“Stop; I will tell you the story of Mikita,” 
interrupted Dorosch. 

“ No, I will tell it,” said the groom, “ for he 
was my godfather.” 

“ I will tell the story of Mikita,” said Spirid. 

“ Yes, yes, Spirid shall tell it,” exclaimed the 
whole company; and Spirid began. 

“ You, Mr Philosopher Thomas, did not know 
Mikita. Ah! he was an extraordinary man. 
He knew every dog as though he were his own 
father. The present huntsman, Mikola, who sits 
three places away from me, is not fit to hold a 
candle to him, though good enough in his way; 
but compared to Mikita, he is a mere milksop.” 

“You tell the tale splendidly,” exclaimed 
Dorosch, and nodded as a sign of approval. 



225 


THE VIY 

Spirid continued. 

“He saw a hare in the field quicker than 
you can take a pinch of snuff. He only needed 
to whistle ‘ Come here, Easboy! Come here, 
Bosdraja! ’ and flew away on his horse like the 
wind, so that you could not say whether he went 
quicker than the dog or the dog than he. He 
could empty a quart pot of brandy in the twink¬ 
ling of an eye. Ah! he was a splendid hunts¬ 
man, only for some time he always had his eyes 
fixed on the young lady. Either he had fallen 
in love with her or she had bewitched him—in 
short, he went to the dogs. He became a regular 
old woman; yes, he became the devil knows what 
—it is not fitting to relate it.” 

“ Very good,” remarked Dorosch. 

“ If the young lady only looked at him, he let 
the reins slip out of his hands, called Bravko 
instead of Easboy, stumbled, and made all kinds 
of mistakes. One day when he was currycomb- 
ing a horse, the young lady came to him in the 
stable. ‘Listen, Mikita,’ she said. -1 should 
like for once to set my foot on you.’ And he, 
the booby, was quite delighted, and answered, 

‘ Don’t only set your foot there, but sit on me 
altogether.’ The young lady lifted her white 
little foot, and as soon as he saw it, his delight 
robbed him of his senses. He bowed his neck, 
the idiot, took her feet in both hands, and began 
to trot about like a horse all over the place. 

p 


226 


THE VIY 

Whither they went he could not say; he returned 
more dead than alive, and from that time he 
wasted away and became as dry as a chip of 
wood. At last someone coming into the stable 
one day found instead of him only a handful 
of ashes and an empty jug; he had burned 
completely out. But it must be said he 
was a huntsman such as the world cannot 
match.” 

When Spirid had ended his tale, they all began 
to vie with one another in praising the deceased 
huntsman. 

“And have you heard the story of Chept- 
chicha? ” asked Dorosch, turning to Thomas. 

“No.” 

“Ha! Ha! One sees they don’t teach you 
much in your seminary. Well, listen. We 
have here in our village a Cossack called Chep- 
toun, a fine fellow. Sometimes indeed he 
amuses himself by stealing and lying without any 
reason; but he is a fine fellow for all that. His 
house is not far away from here. One evening, 
just about this time, Cheptoun and his wife went 
to bed after they had finished their day’s work. 
Since it was fine weather, Cheptchicha went to 
sleep in the court-yard, and Cheptoun in the 
house—no! I mean Cheptchicha went to sleep 
in the house on a bench and Cheptoun out¬ 
side-” 

“No, Cheptchicha didn’t go to sleep on a 



THE VIY 227 

bench, but on the ground,” interrupted the old 
woman who stood at the door. 

Dorosch looked at her, then at the ground, 
then again at her, and said after a pause, “ If I 
tore your dress off your back before all these 
people, it wouldn’t look pretty.” 

The rebuke was effectual. The old woman 
was silent, and did not interrupt again. 

Dorosch continued. 

* ■ In the cradle which hung in the middle of the 
room lay a one-year-old child. I do not know 
whether it was a boy or a girl. Cheptchicha had 
lain down, and heard on the other side of the 
door a dog scratching and howling loud enough 
to frighten anyone. She was afraid, for women 
are such simple folk that if one puts out one’s 
tongue at them behind the door in the dark, their 
hearts sink into their boots. * But,’ she thought 
to herself, ‘ I must give this cursed dog one on 
the snout to stop his howling! ’ So she seized 
the poker and opened the door. But hardly had 
she done so than the dog rushed between her 
legs straight to the cradle. Then Cheptchicha 
saw that it was not a dog but the young lady; 
and if it had only been the young lady as she 
knew her it wouldn’t have mattered, but she 
looked quite blue, and her eyes sparkled like fiery 
coals. She seized the child, bit its throat, and 
began to suck its blood. Cheptchicha shrieked, 
‘ Ah! my darling child! ’ and rushed out of the 


228 THE VIY 

room. Then she saw that the house-door was 
shut and rushed up to the attic and sat there, the 
stupid woman, trembling all over. Then the 
young lady came after her and bit her too, poor 
fool! The next morning Cheptoun carried his 
wife, all bitten and wounded, down from the 
attic, and the next day she died. Such strange 
things happen in the world. One may wear fine 
clothes, but that does not matter; a witch is and 
remains a witch.” 

After telling his story, Dorosch looked around 
him with a complacent air, and cleaned out his 
pipe with his little finger in order to fill it again. 
The story of the witch had made a deep impres¬ 
sion on all, and each of them had something to 
say about her. One had seen her come to the 
door of his house in the form of a hayrick; from 
others she had stolen their caps or their pipes; 
she had cut off the hair-plaits of many girls in 
the village, and drunk whole pints of the blood 
of others. 

At last the whole company observed that they 
had gossiped over their time, for it was already 
night. All looked for a sleeping place—some 
in the kitchen and others in the barn or the 
court-yard. 

‘ ‘ Now, Mr Thomas, it is time that we go 
to the dead,” said the grey-headed Cossack, 
turning to the philosopher. All four—Spirid, 
Dorosch, the old Cossack, and the philosopher— 


THE VIY 229 

betook themselves to the church, keeping off with 
their whips the wild dogs who roamed about the 
roads in great numbers and bit the sticks of 
passers-by in sheer malice. 

Although the philosopher had seized the oppor¬ 
tunity of fortifying himself beforehand with a 
stiff glass of brandy, yet he felt a certain secret 
fear which increased as he approached the 
church, which was lit up within. The strange 
tales he had heard had made a deep impression 
on his imagination. They had passed the thick 
hedges and trees, and the country became more 
open. At last they reached the small enclosure 
round the church; behind it there were no more 
trees, but a huge, empty plain dimly visible in 
the darkness. The three Cossacks ascended the 
steep steps with Thomas, and entered the church. 
Here they left the philosopher, expressing their 
hope that he would successfully accomplish his 
duties, and locked him in as their master had 
ordered. 

He was left alone. At first he yawned, then 
he stretched himself, blew on both hands, and 
finally looked round him. In the middle of the 
church stood the black bier; before the dark 
pictures of saints burned the candles, whose 
light only illuminated the icons, and cast a faint 
glimmer into the body of the church; all the 
corners were in complete darkness. The lofty 
icons seemed to be of considerable age; only a 


230 THE YIY 

little of the original gilt remained on their broken 
traceries; the faces of the saints had become 
quite black and looked uncanny. 

Once more the philosopher cast a glance 
around him. “Bother it! ” said he to himself. 
“ What is there to be afraid about? No living 
creature can get in, and as for the dead and 
those who come from the ‘ other side, ’ I can 
protect myself with such effectual prayers that 
they cannot touch me with the tips of their 
fingers. There is nothing to fear,” he re¬ 
peated, swinging his arms. “Let us begin the 
prayers! ” 

As he approached one of the side-aisles, he 
noticed two packets of candles which had been 
placed there. 

“ That is fine,” he thought. “ I must 
illuminate the whole church, till it is as bright 
as day. What a pity that one cannot smoke 
in it.” 

He began to light the candles on all the wall- 
brackets and all the candelabra, as well as those 
already burning before the holy pictures; soon 
the whole church was brilliantly lit up. Only 
the darkness in the roof above seemed still 
denser by contrast, and the faces of the saints 
peering out of the frames looked as unearthly as 
before. He approached the bier, looked ner¬ 
vously at the face of the dead girl, could not 
help shuddering slightly, and involuntarily closed 


THE VIY '231 

his eyes. What terrible and extraordinary 
beauty! 

He turned away and tried to go to one side, 
but the strange curiosity and peculiar fascination 
which men feel in moments of fear, compelled 
him to look again and again, though with a 
similar shudder. And in truth there was some¬ 
thing terrible about the beauty of the dead girl. 
Perhaps she would not have inspired so much 
fear had she been less beautiful; but there was 
nothing ghastly or deathlike in the face, which 
wore rather an expression of life, and it seemed 
to the philosopher as though she were watching 
him from under her closed eyelids. He even 
thought he saw a tear roll from under the eye¬ 
lash of her right eye, but when it was half¬ 
way down her cheek, he saw that it was a drop 
of blood. 

He quickly went into one of the stalls, opened 
his book, and began to read the prayers in a very 
loud voice in order to keep up his courage. His 
deep voice sounded strange to himself in the 
grave-like silence; it aroused no echo in the 
silent and desolate wooden walls of the church. 

“ What is there to be afraid of? ” he thought 
to himself. “ She will not rise from her bier, 
since she fears God’s word. She will remain 
quietly resting. Yes, and what sort of a Cossack 
should I be, if I were afraid? The fact is, I 
have drunk a little too much—that is why I feel 


232 THE VIY 

so queer. Let me take a pinch of snuff. It is 
really excellent—first-rate! ” 

At the same time he cast a furtive glance over 
the pages of the prayer-book towards the bier, 
and involuntarily he said to himself, ‘ ‘ There! 
See! She is getting up! Her head is already 
above the edge of the coffin! ” 

But a death-like silence prevailed; the coffin 
was motionless, and all the candles shone 
steadily. It was an awe-inspiring sight, this 
church lit up at midnight, with the corpse in the 
midst, and no living soul near but one. The 
philosopher began to sing in various keys in 
order to stifle his fears, but every moment he 
glanced across at the coffin, and involuntarily the 
question came to his lips, “ Suppose she rose up 
after all? ” 

But the coffin did not move. Nowhere was 
there the slightest sound nor stir. Not even 
did a cricket chirp in any corner. There was 
nothing audible but the slight sputtering of 
some distant candle, or the faint fall of a drop 
of wax. 

“ Suppose she rose up after all?” 

He raised his head. Then he looked round 
him wildly and rubbed his eyes. Yes, she was 
no longer lying in the coffin, but sitting upright. 
He turned away his eyes, but at once looked 
again, terrified, at the coffin. She stood up; 
then she walked with closed eyes through the 


THE VIY 233 

church, stretching out her arms as though she 
wanted to seize someone. 

She now came straight towards him. Full of 
alarm, he traced with his finger a circle round 
himself; then in a loud voice he began to recite 
the prayers and formulas of exorcism which he 
had learnt from a monk who had often seen 
witches and evil spirits. 

She had almost reached the edge of the circle 
which he had traced; but it was evident that she 
had not the power to enter it. Her face wore a 
bluish tint like that of one who has been several 
days dead. 

Thomas had not the courage to look at her, so 
terrible was her appearance; her teeth chattered 
and she opened her dead eyes, but as in her rage 
she saw nothing, she turned in another direction 
and felt with outstretched arms among the pillars 
and corners of the church in the hope of seizing 
him. 

At last she stood still, made a threatening 
gesture, and then lay down again in the coffin. 

The philosopher could not recover his self- 
possession, and kept on gazing anxiously at it. 
Suddenly it rose from its place and began hurt¬ 
ling about the church with a whizzing sound. 
At one time it was almost directly over his head; 
but the philosopher observed that it could not 
pass over the area of his charmed circle, so he 
kept on repeating his formulas of exorcism. The 


234 


THE VIY 

coffin now fell with a crash in the middle of the 
church, and remained lying there motionless. 
The corpse rose again; it had now a greenish-blue 
colour, but at the same moment the distant 
crowing of a cock was audible, and it lay down 
again. 

The philosopher’s heart beat violently, and the 
perspiration poured in streams from his face; 
but heartened by the crowing of the cock, he 
rapidly repeated the prayers. 

As the first light of dawn looked through the 
windows, there came a deacon and the grey¬ 
haired Javtuk, who acted as sacristan, in order 
to release him. When he had reached the 
house, he could not sleep for a long time; but at 
last weariness overpowered him, and he slept till 
noon. When he awoke, his experiences of the 
night appeared to him like a dream. He wa3 
given a quart of brandy to strengthen him. : 

At table he was again talkative and ate a fairly 
large sucking pig almost without assistance. 
But none the less he resolved to say nothing of 
what he had seen, and to all curious questions 
only returned the answer, “Yes, some wonder¬ 
ful things happened.” 

The philosopher was one of those men who, 
when they have had a good meal, are uncom¬ 
monly amiable. He lay down on a bench, with 
his pipe in his mouth, looked blandly at all, and 
expectorated every minute. 


THE VIY 235 

But as the evening approached, he became 
more and more pensive. About supper-time 
nearly the whole company had assembled in order 
to play “ krapli.” This is a kind of game of 
skittles, in which, instead of bowls, long staves 
are used, and the winner has the right to ride on 
the back of his opponent. It provided the spec¬ 
tators with much amusement; sometimes the 
groom, a huge man, would clamber on the back 
of the swineherd, who was slim and short 
and shrunken; another time the groom would 
present his own back, while Dorosch sprang on 
it shouting, “What a regular ox!” Those 
of the company who were more staid sat by the 
threshold of the kitchen. They looked uncom¬ 
monly serious, smoked their pipes, and did not 
even smile when the younger ones went into fits 
of laughter over some joke of the groom or 
Spirid. 

Thomas vainly attempted to take part in the 
game; a gloomy thought was firmly fixed like a 
nail in his head. In spite of his desperate efforts 
to appear cheerful after supper, fear had over¬ 
mastered his whole being, and it increased with 
the growing darkness. 

“ Now it is time for us to go, Mr Student! ” 
said the grey-haired Cossack, and stood up with 
Dorosch. “Let us betake ourselves to our 
work.” 

Thomas was conducted to the church in the 


236 


THE VIY 

same way as on the previous evening; again he 
was left alone, and the door was bolted behind 
him. 

As soon as he found himself alone, he began 
to feel in the grip of his fears. He again saw 
the dark pictures of the saints in their gilt 
frames, and the black coffin, which stood menac¬ 
ing and silent in the middle of the church. 

“ Never mind! ” he said to himself. “ I am 
over the first shock. The first time I was fright¬ 
ened, but I am not so at all now—no, not at 
all! ” 

He quickly went into a stall, drew a circle 
round him with his finger, uttered some prayers 
and formulas for exorcism, and then began to 
read the prayers for the dead in a loud voice and 
with the fixed resolution not to look up from the 
book nor take notice of anything. 

He did so for an hour, and began to grow a 
little tired; he cleared his throat and drew his 
snuff-box out of his pocket, but before he had 
taken a pinch he looked nervously towards the 
coffin. 

A sudden chill shot through him. The witch 
was already standing before him on the edge of 
the circle, and had fastened her green eyes upon 
him. He shuddered, looked down at the book, 
and began to read his prayers and exorcisms 
aloud. Yet all the while he was aware how her 
teeth chattered, and how she stretched out her 


THE YIY 237 

arms to seize him. But when he cast a hasty 
glance towards her, he saw that she was not 
looking in his direction, and it was clear that she 
could not see him. 

Then she began to murmur in an undertone, 
and terrible words escaped her lips—words that 
sounded like the bubbling of boiling pitch. The 
philosopher did not know their meaning, but he 
knew that they signified something terrible, and 
were intended to counteract his exorcisms. 

After she had spoken, a stormy wind arose 
in the church, and there was a noise like the 
rushing of many birds. He heard the noise of 
their wings and claws as they flapped against and 
scratched at the iron bars of the church windows. 
There were also violent blows on the church 
door, as if someone were trying to break it in 
pieces. 

The philosopher’s heart beat violently; he did 
not dare to look up, but continued to read 
the prayers without a pause. At last there was 
heard in the distance the shrill sound of"a cock’s 
crow. The exhausted philosopher stopped and 
gave a great sigh of relief. 

Those who came to release him found him 
more dead than alive; he had leant his back 
against the wall, and stood motionless, regard¬ 
ing them without any expression in his eyes. 
They were obliged almost to carry him to the 
house; he then shook himself, asked for and 


238 THE VIY 

drank a quart of brandy. He passed his hand 
through his hair and said, ‘ ‘ There are all sorts 
of horrors in the world, and such dreadful things 

happen that-” Here he made a gesture as 

though to ward off something. All who heard 
him bent their heads forward in curiosity. 
Even a small boy, who ran on everyone’s 
errands, stood by with his mouth wide open. 

Just then a young woman in a close-fitting 
dress passed by. She was the old cook’s assis¬ 
tant, and very coquettish; she always stuck 
something in her bodice by way of ornament, a 
ribbon or a flower, or even a piece of paper if 
she could find nothing else. 

“ Good day, Thomas,” she said, as she saw 
the philosopher. “Dear me! what has hap¬ 
pened to you? ” she exclaimed, striking her 
hands together. 

“ Well, what is it, you silly creature? ” : 

“Good heavens! You have grown quite 
grey!” 

“ Yes, so he has ! ” said Spirid, regarding him 
more closely. “ You have grown as grey as our 
old Javtuk. !j 

When the philosopher heard that, he hastened 
into the kitchen, where he had noticed on the wall 
a dirty, three-cornered piece of looking-glass. 
In front of it hung some forget-me-nots, ever¬ 
greens, and a small garland—a proof that it was 
the toilette-glass of the young coquette. With 



THE VIY 239 

alarm he saw that it actually was as they had 
said—his hair was quite grizzled. 

He sank into a reverie; at last he said to 
himself, “I will go to the colonel, tell him all, 
and declare that I will read no more prayers. 
He must send me back at once to Kieff.” With 
this intention he turned towards the door-step3 
of the colonel’s house. 

The colonel was sitting motionless in his room; 
his face displayed the same hopeless grief which 
Thomas had observed on it on his first arrival, 
only the hollows in his cheeks had deepened. It 
was obvious that he took very little or no food. 
A strange paleness made him look almost as 
though made of marble. 

“ Good day,” he said as he observed Thomas 
standing, cap in hand, at the door. “Well, 
how are you getting on? All right? ” 

“ Yes, sir, all right! Such hellish things are 
going on, that one would like to rush away as 
far as one’s feet can carry one.” 

“How so?” 

“Your daughter, sir. . , . When one con¬ 
siders the matter, she is, of course, of noble 
descent—no one can dispute that; but don’t be 
angry, and may God grant her eternal rest! ” 

“ Very well! What about her? ” 

“ She is in league with the devil. She 
inspires one with such dread that all prayers are 
useless.” 


240 


THE VIY 

‘ ‘ Pray! Pray! It was not for nothing that 
she sent for you. My dove was troubled about 
her salvation, and wished to expel all evil 
influences by means of prayer.” 

“I swear, gracious sir, it is beyond my 
power.” 

“Pray! Pray! ” continued the colonel in the 
same persuasive tone. ‘ ‘ There is only one night 
more; you are doing a Christian work, and I will 
reward you richly.” 

“ However great your rewards may be, I will 
not read the prayers any more, sir,” said 
Thomas in a tone of decision. 

•“ Listen, philosopher! ” said the colonel with 
a menacing air. “I will not allow any objec¬ 
tions. In your seminary you may act as you 
like, but here it won’t do. If I have you 
knouted, it will be somewhat different to the 
rector’s canings. Do you know what a strong 
* kantchuk ’ 1 is? ” 

“ Of course I do,” said the philosopher in a 
low voice; “a number of them together are 
insupportable.” 

Yes, I think so too. But you don’t know 
yet how hot my fellows can make it,” replied 
the colonel threateningly. He sprang up, and 
his face assumed a fierce, despotic expression, 
betraying the savagery of his nature, which 
had been only temporarily modified by grief. 

1 Small scourge. 


THE VIY 241 

“ After the first flogging they pour on brandy 
arid then repeat it. Go away and finish your 
work. If you don’t obey, you won’t be able 
to stand agairi, and if you do, you will get a 
thousand ducats.” 

“That is a devil of a fellow,” thought the 
philosopher to himself, and went out. “ One 
can’t trifle with him. But wait a little, my 
friend; I will escape you so cleverly, that even 
your hounds can’t find me! ” 

He determined, under any circumstances, to 
run away, and only waited till the hour after 
dinner arrived, when all the servants were accus¬ 
tomed to take a nap on the hay in the barn, and 
to snore and puff so loudly that it sounded as if 
machinery had been set up there. At last the 
time came. Even Javtuch stretched himself out 
in the sun and closed his eyes. Tremblingly, 
and on tiptoe, the philosopher stole softly into 
the garden 1 , whence he thought he could escape 
more easily into the open country. This garden 
was generally so choked up with weeds that it 
seemed admirably adapted for such an attempt. 
With the exception of a single path used by the 
people of the house, the whole of it was covered 
with cherry-trees, elder-bushes, and tall heath- 
thistles with fibrous red buds. All these trees 
and bushes had been thickly overgrown with ivy, 
which formed a kind of roof. Its tendrils 
reached to the hedge and fell down on the other, 

Q 


242 THE VIY 

'Bide in snake-like curves among the small, wild 
field-flowers. Behind the hedge which bordered 
the garden was a dense mass of wild heather, hi 
which it did not seem probable that anyone would 
care to venture himself, and the strong, stub¬ 
born stems of which seemed likely to baffle arty 
attempt to cut them. 

As the philosopher was about to climb over tKe 
Hedge, his teeth chattered, and his Heart beat 
so violently that he felt frightened at it. The 
skirts of his long cloak seemed to cling to the 
ground as though they had been fastened to it 
by pegs. When he had actually got over tfie 
hedge He seemed to hear a shrill voice crying 
behind him “WhitKer? Whither?” 

He jumped into the heather and began to run, 
stumbling over old roots and treading on unfor¬ 
tunate moles. When He had emerged from the 
heather he saw that he still had a wide field to 
'cross, behind which was a thick, tKorny under¬ 
wood. This, according to his calculation, must 
stretcK as far as tKe road leading to Kieff, and 
if he reached it he would He safe. Accordingly 
He ran over the field and plunged into th'e tHorny 
copse. Every sharp thorn he encountered tore 
3 fragment from his coat. Then He reached a 
small open space; in the centre of it stood a 
willow, whose branches hung down to tKe earth, 
and close by flowed a clear spring bright as 
silver. The first thing tKe philosopher did was 



THE VIY 243 

to lie down and drink eagerly, for he was intoler¬ 
ably thirsty. 

“Splendid water!” he said, wiping his 
mouth. “ This is a good place to rest in.” 

‘ ‘ No, better run farther; perhaps we are 
being followed,” said a voice immediately behind 
him. 

Thomas started and turned; before him stood 
Javtuch. 

‘ l This devil of a Javtuch! ” he thought. “ I 
should like to seize him by the feet and smash 
his hang-dog face against the trunk of a tree.” 

“ Why did you go round such a long way?” 
continued Javtuch. “You had much better 
have chosen the path by which I came; it leads 
directly by the stable. Besides, it is a pity about 
your coat. Such splendid cloth! How much 
did it cost an ell? Well, we have had a long 
enough walk; it is time to go home.” 

The philosopher followed Javtuch in a very 
depressed state. 

“ Now the accursed witch will attack me in 
earnest,” he thought. “ But what have I really 
to fear? Am I not a Cossack? I have read the 
prayers for two nights already; with God’s help 
I will get through the third night also. It is plain 
that the witch must have a terrible load of guilt 
upon her, else the evil one would not help her 
so much.” 

Feeling somewhat encouraged by these reflee- 


244 THE VIY 

tion§, he returned to the court-yard and asked 
Dorosch, who sometimes, by the steward’s per¬ 
mission, had access to the wine-cellar, to fetch! 
him a small bottle of brandy. The two friends 
sat down before a barn and drank a pretty 
large one. Suddenly the philosopher jumped 
up and said, “ I want musicians! Bring some 
musicians ! v 

But without waiting for them he began to 
dance the “ tropak ” in the court-yard. He 
danced till tea-time, and the servants, who, as is 
usual in such cases, had formed a small circle 
round him, grew at last tired of watching him, 
and went away saying, “By heavens, the man 
can dafice!” 

Finally the philosopher lay down in the place 
where he had been dancing, and fell asleep. 
It was necessary to pour a bucket of cold water 
on his head to wake him up for supper. At the 
meal he enlarged on the topic of what a Cossack 
ought to be, and how he should not be afraid of 
anything in the world. 

“It is time,” said Javtuch; “let us go.” 

“ I wish I could put a lighted match to your 
tongue,” thought the philosopher; then he stood 
up and said, “ Let us go.” 

On their way to the church, the philosopher 
kept looking round him on all sides, and tried to 
start a conversation with his companions; but 
both' Javtuch and Porosch remained silent. It 


THE VIY 


245 


was a weird night. In the distance wolves 
howled continually, and even the barking of the 
dogs had something unearthly about it. 

“ That doesn’t sound like wolves howling, but 
something else,” remarked Dorosch. 

Javtuch still kept silence, and the philosopher 
did not know what answer to make. 

They reached the church and walked over 
the old wooden planks, whose rotten condition 
showed how little the lord of the manor cared 
about God and his soul. Javtuch and Dorosch 
left the philosopher alone, as on the previous 
evenings. 

There was still the same atmosphere of men¬ 
acing silence in the church, in the centre of which 
stood the coffin with the terrible witch inside it. 

“I am not afraid, by heavens, I am not 
afraid ! ” he said; and after drawing a circle 
round himself as before, he began to read the 
prayers and exorcisms. 

An oppressive silence prevailed; the flickering 
candles filled the church with their clear light. 
The philosopher turned one page after another, 
and noticed that he was not reading what was in 
the book. Full of alarm, he crossed himself and 
began to sing a hymn. This calmed him some¬ 
what, and he resumed his reading, turning the 
pages rapidly as he did so. 

Suddenly in the midst of the sepulchral silence 
the iron lid of the coffin sprang open with a 


246 THE VIY 

jarring noise, and the dead witch stood up. She 
Was this time still more terrible in aspect than at 
first. Her teeth chattered loudly and her lips, 
through which poured a stream of dreadful 
curses, moved convulsively. A whirlwind arose 
in the church; the icons of the saints fell on the 
ground, together with the broken window-panes. 
The door was wrenched from its hinges, and a 
huge mass of monstrous creatures rushed into 
the church, which became filled with the noise 
of beating wings and scratching claw§. All tfiese 
creatures flew and crept about, seeking for the 
philosopher, from whose brain the last fumes of 
intoxication had vanished. He crossed himself 
ceaselessly and uttered prayer after prayer, hear¬ 
ing all the time the whole unclean swarm rustling 
about him, and brushing him with the tips of 
their wings. He had not the courage to look at 
them; he only saw one uncouth monster standing 
by the wall, with long, shaggy hair and two 
flaming eyes. Over him something hung in the 
air which looked like a gigantic bladder covered 
with countless crabs’ claws and scorpions’ stings, 
and with black clods of earth hanging from it. 
All these monsters stared about seeking him, but 
they could not find him, since he was protected 
by his sacred circle. 

“Bring the Viy 1 ! Bring the Viy!” cried 
the witch. 


1 The king of the gnomes. 


( 


THE .VIY 247, 

A sudden silence followed; the howling of 
wolves was heard in the distance^ and soon 
heavy footsteps resounded through the church. 
Thomas looked up furtively and saw that an 
ungainly human figure with crooked legs was 
being led into the church. He was quite covered 
with black soil, and his hands and feet resembled 
knotted roots. He trod heavily and stumbled 
at every step. His eyelids were of enormous 
length. With terror, Thomas saw that his face 
.was of iron. They led him in by the arms and 
placed him near Thomas’s circle. 

“ Eaise my eyelids! I can’t see anything! ” 
said the Viy in a dull, hollow voice, and they all 
hastened to help in doing so. 

“Don’t look!” an inner voice warned the 
philosopher; but he could got restrain from 
looking. 

“ There he is! ” exclaimed the Viy, pointing 
an iron finger at him, and all the monsters rushed 
on him at once. 

Struck dumb with terror, he sank to the 
ground and died. 

At that moment there sounded a cock’s crow 
for the second time; the earth-spirits had not 
heard the first one. In alarm they hurried to the 
windows and the door to get out as quickly as 
possible. But it was too late; they all remained 
hanging as though fastened to the door and the 
windows. 


248 


THE YIY 

When the priest came he stood amazed at such 
a desecration of God’s house, and did not venture 
to read prayers there. The church remained 
standing as it was, with the monsters hanging on 
the windows and the door. Gradually it became 
overgrown with creepers, bushes, and wild 
heather, and no one can discover it now. 

• ••••• 

When the report of this event reached Kieff, 
and the theologian Khalava heard what a fate had 
overtaken the philosopher Thomas, he sank for a 
.whole hour into deep reflection. He had greatly 
altered of late; after finishing his studies he had 
become bell-ringer of one of the chief churches 
in the city, and he always appeared with a bruised 
nose, because the belfry staircase was in a 
ruinous condition. 

‘ ‘ Have you heard what has happened to 
Thomas? ” said Tiberius Gorobetz, who had 
become a philosopher and now wore a moustache. 

“Yes; God had appointed it so,” answered 
the bell-ringer. “Let us go to the ale-house; 
we will drink a glass to his memory.” 

The young philosopher, who, [with the enthusi¬ 
asm of a novice, had made such full use of his 
privileges as a student that his breeches and coat 
and even his cap reeked of brandy and tobacco, 
agreed readily to the proposal. 

“He was a fine fellow, Thomas,” said the 
bell-ringer as the limping innkeeper; set the third 


THE VIY 249 

jug of beer before him. “A splendid fellow! 
And lost his life for nothing! ” 

“I know why he perished,” said Gorobetz; 
“ because he was afraid. If he had not feared 
her, the witch could have done nothing to him. 
One ought to cross oneself incessantly and spit 
exactly on her tail, and then not the least harm 
can happen. I know all about it, for here, in 
Kieff, all the old women in the market-place are 
witches.” 

The bell-ringer nodded assent. But being 
aware that he could not say any more, he got up 
cautiously and went out, swaying to the right and 
left in order to find a hiding-place in the thick 
steppe grass outside the town. At the same time, 
in accordance with his old habits, he did not 
forget to steal an old boot-sole which lay on the 
ale-house bench. 


THE END 


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